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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

24 of 52  Trip Around The Sun - Bethel Baptist Church

 

Sunday, October 13, 2002

 

Have traveled about 270,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

The Pastor from last week (Community Reformed Church) sent a nice hand-written note:

 

Dear Chuck,

 

It was so good to meet you and have you join us for worship on Sunday. I pray that the service was meaningful to you and that you were blessed by it.

 

If I can be of service to you, or if you have questions, please call me!

 

Hope you come again.

 

Sincerely,

 

Pastor John

 

 

The Visit:

 

Bethel Baptist Church – Attended Sunday School and regular service.

 

Brotherton road – just off Felicita.

 

This was one of the better meetings I’ve been to so far.

 

At the end of the Sunday School class, the teacher read from scripture, “God’s will is that none should perish, but have everlasting life.” Then he declared, “That’s His Will.”

 

Consistently, when I ask Christian people what they believe about this, I get the same answer. Please consider this.

 

I say, “We know that sometimes we do not do God’s will –“

 

They each say, “Yes – that is true, we sometimes do not.”

 

I say, “But do we believe that ultimately, God’s will will be done?”

 

“Yes – definitely.”

 

I ask, “Does this mean only part of His will – or will all of it be done ultimately?”

 

They always say, “All of it.” It’s very consistent.

 

I might like to ask now – after this lesson:

 

“His will is that none should perish, but have everlasting life. Will this part of His will be done?”

 

If the answer is “Yes,” then none shall perish – not one.

 

This means these folks should know that no person can burn in Hell forever. That would not be God’s will.

 

Based on both what I read in the scriptures – and on the seemingly consistent belief among all denominations of Christians, this is basically what I believe. – That ultimately, God will not lose any of His children – this is His stated will.

 

I think this may be the “secret,” that was not to be told – but was to be told – much as the fruit in the Garden of Eden that was not to be eaten – but was to be eaten.

 

No more details – Those ready to think on this may do so.

 

 

The main service:

 

As 10:30 approached, the large congregation was very noisy – visiting with enthusiasm. (We would call this irreverent, but they appeared so happy.) It was about 10:35 before order was called by the music leader’s just starting the singing.

 

There was a small combo – clarinet, sax, trumpet, maybe a couple more pieces – and a full drum set in the middle. Included a snare, bass drum, barrel drum, cymbal, double-cymbal (don’t know what to call it) – the whole deal. Poised behind this set was a small boy – maybe seven years old. (Good, too.) There was a choir of about 40 pieces.

 

All words were projected in large letters. Singing was enthusiastic (as the drums might give us evidence) – and there were quite a few songs – some familiar.

 

During the singing, the song leader called attention to the noise we could hear above and behind him. He told us that the baptismal font was being filled with water – and that there was a man who was to be baptized today. There was applause

 

Consider the words of this song:

 

You are the potter - I am the clay.

Mold and make me; this is what I pray.

Change my heart, O God. Make it ever true.

Change my heart, O God. May I be like you?

 

 

Now this is very common – to start out saying one thing – and end up saying the opposite.

 

We say: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We are the sheep. Help us to be like Jesus.

 

But then we would not be sheep, but shepherds – that’s like Him.

 

You the potter, I the clay – but I would be as thee – then I would be becoming a potter – not a pot. Potters are not made of clay, so I cannot even begin as a lump of clay. I must begin as something like God – and become more so.

 

As our own children were growing up, I used to think of Leona and me as fertilizer. We fertilize, they grow. We do not try to make them into a particular kind of tree – that’s up to them – We see only that they are fertilized (fed) and watered. (Loved) The rest is up to them.

 

I don’t like to think of my Father as a potter molding me into the shape He wants. I like to think of Him as the ultimate fertilizer – feeding and watering – and hopefully liking what He sees me grow into of my own volition. I don’t think He so greatly valued free-agency – just so we could become His slaves. Our freedom and His love – a perfect formula for ultimate success. (An ultimate success that would result in each one making the grade?)

 

We call ourselves “Members.” Members are parts (The carburetor is a member of the engine.) (The arm is a member of the body.) Members are not subjects – but part of the thing. If we tell an arm that it is not allowed to function – because of what it did yesterday – we make a big error. That is making the arm a subject instead of a member. (An example: “You smoke – therefore you cannot do temple work.” This makes of the member a mere subject.)

 

A member can be excommunicated (This is like amputating the arm.) This makes sense when the arm is infected and full of gangrene, because that member can destroy the whole body. But if the arm has a bruise, we would not wisely amputate just for that – but allow the arm to do what it still can – and heal at the same time.

 

At the end of this section, they sang the Lord’s Prayer (The familiar dynamic one), and it was definitely dynamic. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I experienced a little hoarse feeling after a meeting. I’ve generally heard this sung as solo. I love it when we sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic this way – loud and unrepentant.

 

The pastor’s message was on prayer. He was dressed in a dark suit, tie, and white shirt. That stood out a little, as the congregation was dressed very casually – no suits – no ties. He had lots of visual aids – and the whole presentation was fun and informative. Lots of laughs – lots of thought. He said prayer should be done three ways: Consistently, Continuously, and Corporally. He said that the scripture about praying in one’s closet was not in reference to all our praying – most – but not all.

 

He had a full size vending machine (made of cardboard with the parts painted on the front.) He asked, “Did you know that from 4 to 6 people are killed every year by vending machines?

Then he went up to his – and said, “I’ve used these machines a lot.” “I put in my coin, pull the lever – pick up my item, and walk on, almost without stopping.”

 

Clink – Go   Clink – Go   Clink Go  ClinkWo – nothing came out.

 

This is when you start talking to the machine, “You %&^#%@ machine – Hey – Where is my candy bar???” He shook the machine and allowed it to fall forward on top of him. The congregation seemed to enjoy very much seeing their “Bishop” lying on the floor in front of them with a large cardboard box on top of him. (We would probably enjoy this also?)

 

“This is the way we sometimes pray – Clink – Go.  And if God doesn’t give us what we want - ? We treat him like we treat a vending machine.”

 

At the end of the meeting, the large screen upon which the words to songs had been projected began to rise – until it was gone into the ceiling.

 

It uncovered a beautiful cross – back-lit. In front of the cross, perhaps ten feet or so above floor level – was a pane of glass – with six inches or so of water showing behind. This was the baptismal font. The young minister then came from the side – behind the font. His suit coat was gone – and the white shirt had the sleeves rolled up about like it was a short-sleeved shirt. He was not in the font.

 

Then he gave a little talk about baptism, pointing out, among other things, that it was in meaning an immersion – like a burial of the sinful man – and a rising of a new man.

 

He looked to the side – and invited the man to enter the font. When the man was fully in the font, the water was about up to the middle of his chest.

 

The minister told us a little about the man who was there to be baptized – that he had recently accepted Jesus as his savior. There was applause.

 

The minister then said a baptismal prayer – very similar to ours – calling upon Jesus – and closing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.

 

Then he reached forward and baptized the man, never himself entering the water more than up to his elbows or so.

 

As the man rose from the water, the congregation burst into song – led by the song leader.

 

The baptism was witnessed by the entire congregation – clearly seeing the man go under the water – and rise again – all looking upward to view it – and all standing.

 

Then there was a prayer led by the minister – and a closing song, which was last – and not projected, but familiar.

 

Finally, the loud and enthusiastic visiting began anew – with no new group waiting to be seated.

 

Reverence is not synonymous with Quiet, for Baptists.

 

 

24 of 52  Trip Around The Sun - Bethel Baptist Church

 

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