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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

18 of 52Trip Around The Sun Ė FirstUnited Methodist Church

 

Sunday, September 1, 2002

 

Have traveled about 202,000,000 miles. (About a third of the way around the Sun.)

 

(Last week's mileage the same - error.)

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

I'm not a number or calendar-worshipper, that's why I call a birthday merely a "Trip Around the Sun," but there are many who appreciate numbers and attach significance to them. The following was at least interesting, since our own people consider the date meaningful.

April 6th is an important date in the history of Swedenborg and the LDS Church.  Emanuel Swedenborg received his calling from the Lord on April 6, 1744.  One year later on April 6, 1745 the Lord appeared to him again.  About that same time he received further clarification concerning his calling.  On April 6th 1830 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was established and in a revelation received at that same time, Doctrine and Covenants 20:1, it was revealed that the Lord was born on April 6th.

It would appear that Jesus likes His birthday. He did say, did He not, that we ought to "Be as little children." Children (and women) love their own birthdays. I wish I had appreciated that sooner in life. My own has not meant much to me, as I regarded it as just a coincidence of the man-made calendar - a trip around the Sun - not 365 days - not any exact number of days, but 365.25???? days. It's only an estimated unit of time.

What's interesting to me is that in all the writings of this group pertaining to the Mormons, there appears to be a pride in the similarities. They are not in the least writing anti-Mormon literature, but expressing pride in what they have in common with us. They donít say, "Joseph claims to have received a revelation as to the birth date of the Savior." Instead, they say that Joseph did receive that revelation. This is a fine, and I think, rare attitude of one church about another. Swedenborg did not receive or claim to receive a revelation that the Lord was born on April 6th, but the Swedenborgian's believe that Joseph Smith did receive that revelation, and it makes sense to them. They believe each church is a "jewel on the Lord's crown." If all religions believed this way, the atrocities probably would never have occurred. That doesn't in itself make the belief correct, but it does make the belief good. (Belief in Santa Claus is like that - not correct, but still good.)

Would we say that Swedenborg did not receive his claimed revelations 77 years before Joseph Smith's First Vision, but that he accidentally wrote some truth without it's coming from God? That would be a bad attitude, but it is most common among religions. "We are the only ones God will talk to officially. Others will be inspired - but only our prophet can receive for the world." Even if this were actually true, we ought to hope that it were not. It should be no source of pride. Exclusivity is for fraternities - not for us.

The Visit:

First United Methodist Church - 341 Kalmia St. Escondido

Different from the "Free Methodist Church," this is the actual Methodists we associate with John Calvin.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Earth's crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pick blackberries.

†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

The program began with a young boy on a soprano saxophone. About 9 or 10 years old - and pretty good. He played three numbers. "What a Wonderful World." "Esther," and "Amazing Grace." I often play "Esther" on the clarinet, and it was fun to hear him do that one. He was a little black boy - who obviously loved that little straight saxophone. I would be interested to hear him again a few years from now. I was struck with the thought that if he'd been a little Mormon boy, he'd have to play at home - he had spent his time learning the wrong instrument - not sacred enough for our meetings. He should play the violin, and then he would be fully acceptable in holy places.

Hymns were sung by the choir and the congregation. The music, for most of the hymns, is written melody only - no parts. When in the program, it's words only with no music - familiar tunes.

There was quite a lot of reading back and forth, which appears to be quite common in many churches.

The minister was a woman, married with children. She was dynamic and obviously enjoyed her calling. Her topic was, using Moses as an example, the fire that burns inside us - or not - as we choose. She made a very good case for keeping alert and looking for ways to serve. That Browning poem up there - if I interpret it correctly, she's saying that the fire Moses saw was available to all of us - that it's already in us if we choose to see it. "Every common bush afire with God." If we donít see it, we use the bush for a lesser purpose - that it may provide for us, blackberries.

"If you're here this morning, you're still alive - Let God light the fire in you again. Some callings do indeed change the world. Others simply change us."

"Moses was married - very happy - needed nothing. He certainly wasn't looking for God. God, however, was looking for Moses. When God found him, Moses paid attention." (Took off his shoes, according to Browning, because he saw the fire.)

The message was focused - single subject - well developed and handled.

I have noticed that some churches put great effort into having the high point of the meeting be just before the offering - This one was different. The offering plates were passed early and without much ado.

Then the emphasis for the meeting was on the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This took up fully half an hour - with lots of music - both choir and congregation.

I asked an usher, "Do members of other churches partake?" His eyes opened wider, as if surprised, and he said, "Oh yes - yes." I was touched by a little emotion in his response.

When the time came for the actual taking of the emblems, the minister said, "God has prepared this table; there is not one who cannot come."

Evidently, here, the Sacrament is not for the fit, but for all, even unbelievers who are willing to try it. This was not a surprise for me. I've known for a long time that Methodists do not subscribe to the notion that they are the only ones. I believe Joseph Smith rather favored this church himself, having attended other denominations also. Wasn't it a Methodist minister who read the scripture in James?

Several people at the front held large pieces of flat bread. Row by row, nearly everyone present went to the front and broke off his own piece of bread. There was only one cup of wine (grape juice). Each person dipped the bread into the cup and continued back to sit down. An elderly man just in front of me took a rather large piece of the bread and dipped generously in the grape juice. His dress indicated to me that he might be struggling.

The choir sang during this time. Then at a point about midway in the Sacrament service, the choir was finished, and recorded music took its place. (The recorded music was a little jazzy.) Then two people went up into the choir to serve them also.

They use "you," not "thee," etc., even in The Lord's Prayer. When Jesus used "thee" and "thou," he was using the informal of that day. Now that "You" is the informal, we probably should use that. Instead, we try to be formal, which "thee" and "thou" have become. This was not his intent at all - just the opposite. Frankly, I think Jesus would call Joseph "Dad," and Mary, "Mom," if he lived in today's world. "Dad, one leg on this table is a little weak - should I put another brace here?" "Mom - you know what my life is about - you could have figured out what I was doing at the temple. Please donít worry about me. Don't you know teenagers are indestructible?" (Especially this one.)

There were more songs by the congregation at the end of the Sacrament service, and then the meeting closed.

After the meeting, which had begun at 9:00, there was the common twenty-minute social - and then another identical meeting at 10:30. There was quite an effort to introduce me to several other men of my age during the social. There were lots of them - all nice men. The congregation again did not include many children. The children were all in Sunday School. The choir was mostly senior citizens - quite good. Of course, the one leading the way was in life insurance.

It occurred to me that any of these churches would have a very hard time getting their people to attend for three hours, so that the main meeting could be attended by all - and then Sunday school also attended by all - and then still another meeting of Priesthood and Relief Society, and for the entire time, all ages doing something. How did we do that? Does anyone else do anything similar to this? I donít know a single one. When it comes to "family," the Mormons are the winners. Sometimes this results in a kind of loneliness among Mormons who donít fit the definition completely. We could do better in this regard.

I've told Leona before that if I were not a Mormon, I might be a Methodist. I do think they tend to have a good attitude. Still - I donít think you could get them to go to church for three hours every Sunday. Who knows? Maybe that is part of their good attitude.

 

18 of 52Trip Around The Sun Ė FirstUnited Methodist Church

 

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