We walk into a wonderland of comfort and community, of support of art in all of its forms, of a sense of welcome to all. Well, almost all. The space is comfort with a capital C. Well-used couches and chairs interspersed with small, high, round tables and chairs fill the room, and in its center is a backless swivel stool. A large cross hangs at the front, surrounded by art from, I am guessing, church members. An enormous paper mache duck (or is it a goose?) is suspended above us.
Now this is a church. None of that stuffy, organized programming for us! In fact, the programming is all about the church members. Members write songs, songs about peace and finding my way, and perform them in place of congregational singing. There are readings via power point, and whoever cares to read it aloud does so for the rest of us. Only once do two people start reading at the same time and one quickly stops so the other can continue solo.
Communion is really communal. After an explanation that Jesus died for us, the first mention I’ve heard of Him so far, round loaves and pitchers of grape juice or wine are available to whoever goes and takes some. There’s a gluten-free option. People chat freely. Some little kids run around, snacking on their bread. It’s a little noisy, as is the rest of the service. Someone shares a testimony about his art work. Someone reads a poem. An attractive young woman reads a few announcements, one about a trip to South America to build a brick home for a family, a summer project these dear folk have been doing for many years, also an art show. People trying to help others and encouraged to express themselves creatively – that’s a good thing.
What’s not to love?
What’s not to love?
The minister takes his place on the stool. He invites whoever in the congregation will to read the scripture on power point. There is no printed reference, and someone asks where it’s found. He replies it is from Luke. It is, in fact, Luke recounting the time when a centurion sends Jewish elders, friends of his, to ask Jesus to heal his servant. The elders tell Jesus of this man’s love for their nation and his help in building a synagogue. When Jesus begins to go to his house, he sends other friends to say he doesn’t feel worthy for Jesus to be under his roof and, being a man in authority, he knows that Jesus doesn’t need to come to his house at all. All Jesus has to do is say the word and he knows his servant will be healed. Jesus remarks to those around him about the greatness of this man’s faith and the friends return to find the servant healed.
Please think for a minute. Don’t think about what you’ve been taught if, in fact, you have been taught about scripture. What do you take away from this encounter noted in Luke? I’ll tell you what. I’m impressed with the centurion’s faith. I’m amazed at the power of Jesus to heal someone who’s not even in the same town. I’m glad this man gave his own money to help build the synagogue and that there was such a love between him and his friends, both Jewish and Gentile, that they went to Jesus on his behalf. What say you?
The following is the minister’s take away: he noted that Jews were instructed to not associate with Gentiles and went into some detail about that. His message was about the dividing lines of people then and now. People were invited to contribute to the conversation, which was about division, I guess. The discussion centered mostly around the centurion and divisions today. Okay. I get it. This isn’t really a church for Jesus. He wasn’t invited and no one talked to him even once during the ninety minute service. This is a church designed to push a tired and well-worn viewpoint of “them” and “us”, of victimhood, and what is now an established anti. I would say anti-establishment, but it’s so much more. It’s anti-scriptural authority. It’s anti-Jesus’ teaching if what he says condemns someone or something. It is a church that wants to use the name of Jesus for their own purposes, not His. I wanted very badly to get up and join in the free flowing service by playing “My Jesus, I Love Thee” on the piano and singing along. It wouldn’t have fit in. He wasn’t there.
photo: en.wikipedia.org, Scripture reference: Luke 7:2-10