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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

 

Week 03 of 52- The Church of Christ

 

So far have traveled about 34,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during week before visit:

 

Doubt and faith are companion tools.

Both are needed for a reasonable process.

There is not one evil and the other good.

They are both good.

 

Both should be honest.

 

Those who lack honest faith are without inspiration.

Those lacking honest doubt are without a rudder.

Dishonest faith is hypocrisy or fanaticism.

Dishonest doubt leaves one unable to look at and consider data.

 

††††††† - Chuck Borough

 

 

This Sunday, I will be attending the Church of Christ.I knew of two of these in the small town of Chapmanville, West Virginia, as a missionary.These two had earlier been only one.Evidently, there were only two issues that caused them to separate into two different congregations.(I suspect a third.)One of the issues was with regard to accompaniment during singing.One group wanted the piano - the other wanted to sing with the voice only.The other issue was with regard to decor.One group wanted carpets, mirrors, other nice things.The other group wanted wood floors (not hardwood - just wood), no mirrors, etc.The fancy group had the nicest building in town.The other group had a shabby building, and it was unkempt.The third difference I suspect has to do with the relative wealth of the two groups.

 

I will be attending The Church of Christ at the corner of Ash and Oak Hill.It appears to be the fancy branch of the denomination.

 

I have noticed every two weeks or so, they change the message on the outer wall near the entrance.Currently it says:

 

"Give God what is RIGHT

Not what is LEFT."

 

I would like to know what meaning this carries.

 

Does it refer to giving money before bills are paid instead of after?††

Does it refer to left and right political positions?

Or does it refer to giving one's all - before being wasted on other things?

 

The last one said:

 

"Do not give God instructions.

Just show up for duty."

 

I'm pretty sure I know what this one means - it means do not argue with this leader as to the personality of God.Do not think for yourself.Anytime we are critical of a view of God, people accuse us of being critical of God.An example of this:

 

Someone from another belief system tells us that God will send a child to hell to burn forever - if that child is not baptized.We say - "No way - God would never do this."They think we are criticizing God's way, when we are really critical of their belief.We believe their belief to be incorrect about God.That is not criticizing God.That is not giving God instructions.

 

I suspect this will be the more conservative of the three groups so far.I'm interested to see if my guess is right.(Or if there's something else left for me to learn here.)

 

 

The visit:

 

The Church of Christ.

 

Boy, did I get that one wrong.This was the one without the piano.I guess in Escondido they can have a nice big building and still be the simple ones.

 

Conservatism was so thick here that even I was wanting to be back with the liberal Mormons today.In a conversation with a knowledgeable member:

 

He:Speaking of a person who had recently died."We know he is with God."

 

I:"With regard to your beliefs - do you believe that the two choices are to be with God - or to burn in Hell forever and ever?"

 

He:"That's His judgment."

 

I:"Would this second option be the lot of one who lives and dies without so much as hearing the name of God?"

 

He:"That's His judgment.You may think of the innocent people in darkest Africa, but there is no person who is innocent.We must be washed with the blood of Christ."

 

I:"I believe God is only good - Jesus too."

 

He:"He is what He is - you cannot tell Him what to be."

 

I:"Do you yourself believe that an innocent person would be burned forever and ever?"

 

He:"There are no innocent people."

 

 

I promise you, I was uncomfortable, even though these answers were not a surprise.It never ceases to amaze me that people can believe God is like this - and still love Him.I would hate Him.But I do not - because He is not like this.He is only good, and we do know what good is - it is not a mystery.

 

Singing was all with zero accompaniment.The leader would start singing from where he left his seat in the congregation - and continue to lead us through three or four verses of a song in the hymn book.Most sang only the melody - loudly, yet the hymns themselves were much like ours - a little less formal.Usually at the end of lines, I could hear more harmony.Singing was all at about forte - an attempt to make up for no organ or piano, I think.

 

I wrote the following words down:

 

"Lay your gifts at His feet.

Ever strive to be sweet.†††† (I thought this line was cute - had to rhyme, you know.)

Let the beauty of Jesus

Be seen in you."

 

There was no printed program - songs were announced.

 

No pictures, statues or mirrors, but there was very nice carpet throughout.(That's a change from 40 years ago.)Those wood floors were probably a bit too noisy - especially for larger congregations.I happen to know also that the Amish have ball bearings in those wonderful wagons of theirs.(Made in factories!)

 

Birthdays were announced, and they clapped for each one.This was the only applause."Amens" were sparse after prayers, but there were a few - not loud - about like ours - only with only a few people saying it.

 

The talk was the most interesting part.He talked about rejection.

 

First he talked of God's rejection of the sacrifice made by Cain - and Cain's anger and response in killing his brother, whose sacrifice had been accepted.

 

Second he talked of Mohammed - rejected by the people in Mecca.Then he went somewhere else where he was accepted - took an army back and destroyed the people of Mecca.

 

He said normal people cannot handle rejection.But Jesus was rejected by most around Him - and didn't do what we psychologists would expect.He loved, and many were converted.

 

That was the essence of the message.

 

 

Now consider what the earlier gentleman and I had discussed.Those who reject Jesus would burn in Hell forever and ever.That doesn't sound like Jesus accepts rejection very well at all.

 

Once, when one of Al Capone's boys messed up, he is reported to have said in a meeting - To err is human, to forgive divine.The man was so relieved.Aside, however, Capone had arranged for this guy not to be in attendance at the next meeting.Of course Jesus could accept rejection - knowing what He would be doing about it later.Capone said, "You see, I am not divine."

 

No no no - Jesus could accept rejection because He knows all of us - loves all of us - and knows the final result will be the best for each one, including himself.

 

 

They, like we, do not appear ever to use second person for Jesus.They say, "Jesus said," and quote Him thusly, "But I say unto you - - " - first person.They say "Thank you" to God for Jesus - third person.But I did not hear, "Thank thee, Savior, for what you have done." - second person.We also never speak to Him (except in hymns.)†† This has always puzzled me.We never say "You" or "Thee" to Jesus.We say "thou" or "He" or "I."This appears to be common in more "formal" churches.

 

This Church of Christ was an interesting mix of very formal and very informal.The rules of conduct appeared a little harsh.

 

Their sacrament is to be taken by anyone - not just members.I was sitting about two-thirds back - but the chapel was large and not well-filled.In the side pews, I was the first one - so a plate came to me without my being able to observe etiquette first.It had a cracker in it - just one cracker.I figured out pretty quickly that I was not to take the cracker (it was not large) - so I broke off a small piece, (where were the aaronic teachers?), and from observation later, I had done it the right way.The "wine" was served much as we do - with the little cups in the little holes - no alcohol - think it was Welsh's.(Of good report?)

 

 

Yet in another conversation with a lady - She told me that there was an attempt to get this congregation away from "legality."I asked what that meant.She said that most southern churches were heavily into legality - you know - "If you do this, you'll burn - or if you donít do thus and so, you'll burn in Hell.We're trying to be more of a spiritual group.Not so much exactly what we do - but doing what we believe."

 

I told her that my own church teaches us that the letter is very useful, but that the spirit is better.She said, "Yes - that's it.""But," I said, "Paul's teaching was that The Letter Killeth - but the Spirit Giveth Life."That's not good vs. better - that's bad vs. good.I've seen much damage done by the powerful keeping their thumbs on the weaker.(Parents to children, primarily.)It is more than hurtful; it is most destructive.The savior's plan of agency and danger and opportunity is the way to go.The other plan was safe - but not very effective.

 

I was decidedly not comfortable in this church - though the people seemed very nice.It was officialdom that was not so nice.The congregation was old, on average, - a few children and younger adults - but not many.When I say old, I am among these, but I so enjoy the sweetness of the family at my Church.

 

At the end of their meeting, it was announced that next Sunday is bowling.Evidently, they do not apply the "Rest from thy labors on Sunday" command to include a ban on recreation, as we have come to do.

 

I'm sure some of you are getting the idea that I am feeling my oats - and a bit of freedom.That freedom has been much missed by me for far too long.

 

I'm glad I attended this church - but glad to be home.In West Virginia, I never attended the "no piano" version. This was an experience.

 

I did go to the "piano" version in West Virginia - and performed a wedding there.A member and his bride there - were upset with the minister for what he had said on the radio about the Mormon missionaries.They came to me and asked me to marry them in their own church.With the mission president's concurrence, I did.They tried to pay - and learned something about our unpaid ministry.Leona and I and all five kids met this couple 23 years later - in Chapmanville.We found that they had sent their kids, during their growing-up years - to the Mormon activities - 13 miles away at first.The man's name was Jimmy Chapman - (In Chapmanville).His wife is Captolia (Godby) Chapman.(Ever known a Captolia?)Jimmy was a grandson of the founder of the little town.Oh, West Virginia - I often miss it.Of the wedding, the minister was fit to be tied.(Not my fault - Jimmy's ! )

 

 

03 of 52 -Trip Around The Sun

 

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