Sunday, September 4th, 2016. Secret Sunday Service #2
Welcome to the Secret Sunday Service. Kind of like church you can attend in the bathtub. Grab a cup of coffee and a donut. Let's get started!
~~~ Announcements ~~~
~ The Church Rummage sale is next weekend. The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement Saturday.
~ A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
~ At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
~~~ Worship ~~~
Play 'When a Man Loves a Woman', by Percy Sledge, and know that God is talking about his church.
~~~ Message ~~~
Are Christians Insane?
Can't blame someone for thinking so. There are so many different kinds of Christianity in the world, all claiming to be the right way to approach God, it must seem like we suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder. There are highly regimented Catholic and Greek Orthodox, free flowing hippie style churches you can attend in shorts and sandals, ones that handle snakes as an act of worship and some that speak only in Russian. Some have choirs and organists, some have heavy metal and hip hop bands and some have no music at all. Some have soaring cathedrals hundreds of years old, some meet in strip malls or folk's living rooms and some don't meet in buildings at all. In short, there are as many forms of Christian church as there are people in the world.
Which one is right? Who knows? They all think they are right. They all think everyone else is slightly off. It can get ugly. Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other in N. Ireland and other places for centuries. Atrocities stick to the Church's history like sprinkles on a donut. Even in the best of times, sneering at traditions that aren't your is a time worn pastime in the church. So, is there only one right way?
Who cares? It doesn't matter. Only the Essentials matter. Remember Bubba, from 'Forrest Gump'? He rattled off a hundred ways you could cook a shrimp. The way you cooked the shrimp wasn't essential. The shrimp is essential. In Christianity, only faith in Jesus is Essential.
"For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son, Jesus, so that every one who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (That's in the book of John 3:16).
That's it. It's just that simple. You get that right, and everything else can be wrong and you will still be alright in the end. The Essentials begin and end with faith in Jesus. Everything else that makes Christians different is added on after those essentials. Without that simple faith in Jesus, you're not a Christian Church, no matter how appealing your club might seem.
The Christian Faith is different from other religions in that the essential element is extremely simple and front loaded. Other religious faiths place their essential, core revelations at the end of a long journey of discovery. Only after you have walked their path of prescribed practice do you earn the right to the 'sacred knowledge'. Of course, difficult accomplishment is the garden of pride and arrogance. People love that, God doesn't. God made the act of faith so simple and clear, even a caveman could do it.
It has to be that simple. How else can a guy like my son be saved? James, is mentally handicapped. He can not hold in his mind some complicated recipe for salvation. He knows nothing about the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith, orthodoxy, Christian history or any of that stuff. James talks to the people on TV. He thinks it's his birthday every day. Yours too. He will call you on his hand. (He will literally hold his palm to his ear and have a conversation with you as if his hand was a cell phone). Every time he goes by a building that has pillars in front like the White House, he thinks Obama, Bush and Clinton live there. Do you get it? He is delightfully free of the burden of understanding ANYTHING. And yet, he knows Jesus in his way. I believe this because he prays for the young men who aid him in his program when they drop him off. He wraps his huge arms around them, trapping them until he finishes a heartfelt incomprehensible prayer for them. When they finally break free, he shouts after them, "Go with God!" Is he just parroting what he sees me do? Maybe. Who cares? James's faith is as personal as it is simple, and it it HIS. Who am I to judge it? James's version of Christianity is yet another brand built upon the Essential. I kinda like going to his church, it's my birthday every day.
Christianity is not about getting the 'formula' right. It is about getting the relationship right. It starts with acknowledging God is there. Then brutal honesty about yourself kindles the flame. The Essentials restore the basic relationship with God. Yet, it's a private thing. This is not something done for the viewing pleasure of anyone else. You are the only one who can know if you have that restored relationship because you are the only one who knows what you have done with the Essentials. James seems to have it, but how can I really know? Who can judge that? Who can judge your relationship with God? Only you can, now. God will, later. Once you've got the 'shrimp', then you can choose from the infinite menu how you would like your shrimp prepared.
Why did God allow these confusing variations of Christianity to happen?
Disney controls it's brand mercilessly. Try adding a picture of Micky Mouse to your business advertising without their permission and see what happens. Most big profile companies do the same. God, on the other hand, lets people add most anything they want to their church experience, as long as the Essentials are there. Walking on coals, Polka Music, services on horseback, anything goes, for now. Apparently.
Why does He do it?
It is an act of mercy, an act of love for you. He knows not everyone is going to be drawn by priest robes, live snakes or country music, but a thin slice of humanity will be. God knows that people are mostly annoyed with each other and only want to hang with birds of the same feather. He know the Church is mostly filled with these annoying, aggressive and picky people He loves, (by the way, there's always room for one more, so c'mon down) so He makes a place where they will all be comfortable. Besides, if we all got along and clumped together in one big group hug, we could easily be taken out with one nuclear strike. Irritation is intentional. It makes us spread out over the whole world.
Will the Church ever come together in unity?
Sure, but it might not look like you expect. People create unity through conformity. If it were up to people, everyone would have to dress the same, talk the same and be the same to be unified. Then there would be order. Thats Fascist. That's North Korea. God creates unity through love and grace. A garden planted by Man is organized in neat rows of like kinds. Pruned. Weeded. Safe. A garden planted by God looks like the Amazon jungle. Wild. Free. Inclusive. Surprising. Beautiful. Dangerous.
Still want to stop the noise of chaos? Have patience. The weird customizations of Christianity will only hold up until there is persecution. Then all the silly frills get burned off and the core essentials make us one. Persecution purifies. Ask the Christians in the Middle East.
So, no one is looking. What about you? What to know for sure if God is real? What to know if He cares about you? It begins with a private conversation. Ask Him. He is right there with you.
Last thought. Remember Noah's Arc? The big boat built to save every species of life on earth during the flood? The Church is an Arc. The forms of life being saved are extremely diverse and often hostile to each other. No problem. The Captain just keep everyone in their corner of the boat and we all get along. C'mon aboard. We'll find a bunk for you.
That's it for today. Have a great week. Remember to call James on his hand and let him know what you want for your birthday. See you next Sunday.
Chris Jon Lawler