Worse than I thought

Just an update for those who were wondering. The visit from the president of Madagascar was much worse than I thought. I won’t go into details, but the bilingual group was sent a clear message that we are second-class citizens, at least when compared to visiting foreign dignitaries. On the Sunday that we had more visitors than we have had in a long time, our class was interrupted, we were herded into the chapel, the main entrance to our meeting place was blocked by security and visitors and late-arriving members were given the honor of entering through a service entrance. Maybe everyone accepted it as the price you pay for being across the street from a University and being the “official” University church.
I took it as a reminder that these silly kingdoms of the world are not our kingdoms. Neither kingdom can fully understand or appreciate the other. I’m just sorry that in a building that is supposed to be “ours,” the people of the Lord’s kingdom were forced to play by the rules of the kingdoms of the world… with some of our people calling the shots.
I turn again to James 2:1-4 and cringe.
[In fairness, I got a response from our preacher. He told of the many ways in which the main auditorium was affected, including being asked to delay the beginning of their service by 5 minutes when the president was running late and being asked to end the service early! With his permission, I’ll quote this:
“The week before we had a family from Zimbabwe visiting for the graduation of their son. They were very poor and humble Christians. I was glad that they were treated with more honor and respect than even the president of Madagascar. So from one Sunday compared to the following Sunday we passed the James 2 test. Yesterday we got about a C on that exam. We will extend apologies all around. We did not mean to demean anyone or any group.”]

Move over… the President’s coming

I work with the bilingual group at our church (English/Spanish). We meet in the chapel during the worship service time, while the rest of the church is in the auditorium. I found out last night that we are not to enter the chapel until precisely 10 a.m. this coming Sunday. The President is coming and will be passing through there with his entourage on the way to the auditorium. No, not George W. Another head of state.
The People magazine side of me says, “Wow! A head of state. How cool. Of course he gets special treatment.”
The contrarian side of me says, “What about James 2:1-4?”
The easily-offended side of me says, “Sure, we’re only 50 people in a a church of 700. Make us adjust our schedule.”
The practical side of me says, “The bilingual group never starts on time, so there’s no problem with waiting. The chapel is the largest unused room during class time, provides easy access to the auditorium, and can easily be closed off for privacy. It makes sense.”
Who knew that I had so many sides?

Exodus 34:24

“I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.” (Exodus 34:24)
This passage was brought to my attention in a class by Walt Leaver at the Pepperdine Lectureship. “No one will covet your land when you go up.”What a powerful promise! And what faith it would have taken for the Israelites to live up to this.
Farmers cannot easily take off three times a year, especially when it would have taken them several days to make the trip to Shiloh (or Jerusalem or wherever). Add to that the fact that God asked them to leave their homes and fields unprotected, trusting in His protection. Wow!
I don’t think I’m ready to trust in God that much. And that’s a little sad.

You singing to me?

My mother was a music teacher, as was one of my uncles. My sister is a music teacher. My mother-in-law teaches music, as does her only son. We take music fairly seriously in our family.
For years now, I’ve tried to take singing at church seriously. Among other things, I’ve tried to focus on the words of the songs. I’m picky enough that I won’t sing certain lines of songs, sometimes out of disagreement, sometimes just not knowing what the line means (any ideas on “May your kingdom be established in our praises…”?).
One thing that has been very helpful to me is to be conscious of whom I am singing to. Is the song directed to God? Is the song directed to my brothers? I often close my eyes on a God-addressing song, just as I generally do when speaking to Him. When singing to my brothers, I try to look at them.
I like to sing and definitely have my preferences in songs. Above all, I try to “sing with my mind” as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:15. If you aren’t in that habit, I strongly suggest it. It makes a world of difference.

The Table of the Lord: Were I in charge…

I hope I don’t seem to be dragging this out. It’s just that so many times we criticize yet offer no suggestions for improvement. So let me write one more post on this subject.

Were I in charge of the Lord’s Supper, it would admittedly take a good bit more time. While I think it would ideally be taken while sitting around tables, I think it can still be done in an auditorium.

The first thing I would want is a time for reconciliation. Have a time of prayer where people are urged to move around and pray with one another. One of the main purposes would be to offer a time for people to put the idea of Matthew 5:23-24 into practice. There should be no disputes between brothers that remain unresolved.

I would also encourage a full explanation of what is going to be done, maybe not every time, but frequently. We have visitors among us that don’t know what is expected of them, we have children that need to be learning, we have adults that need to be reminded.

I would have tables around the auditorium. The ideal would be to have one of the deacons at each table, accompanied by their families. Small groups would gather around the table, greet one another, pray together and share the bread and the wine. Families would be encouraged to stay together. Talk should be encouraged, speaking of the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice, the significance of the covenant and the reality of our unity. After a “reasonable” amount of time (this calls for sensitivity), a central song leader could begin a song, the groups would finish their time together, and the whole assembly would continue their time of encouragement and praise.

I would even be satisfied if this were only done once a month, with other ways of taking the supper being used the other weeks. My high school choir director used to say, “A rut is just a grave with both ends knocked out.” I know that C.S. Lewis argued otherwise, but I think that variety is good in our worship. We too easily turn routine into tradition and tradition into law.

Those are my views. I would love to hear the ideas of others.