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JUST ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

27 of 52  Trip Around The Sun - Escondido First Church of the Nazarene

 

Sunday, November 3, 2002

 

Have traveled about 303,400,000 miles.

 

That’s half the way Around The Sun plus another over 11,000,000 miles.

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

One day a little girl was sitting and watching her
mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly
noticed that her mother had several strands of white
hair sticking out in contrast to her brunette hair.
She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, "Why
are some of your hairs white, Mom?"

Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do
something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my
hairs turns white." The little girl thought about this
revelation for a while and then said, "Momma, how come
ALL of grandma's hairs are white?"

 

It’s not only the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus we tell untruths about – but a thousand other things as well. Conclusions will be drawn from our stories – it’s inevitable. For some, the revelation that there really is no such person as a real Santa Claus who can fly with reindeer pulling his sleigh – is a revelation that much of what we are taught cannot be trusted. Most children probably will not draw this conclusion – but some will. To this day, I can remember the “proofs” that were given – the disappearing hot chocolate, for example.

 

It was my cousin who told me the truth. After calling him a liar – and then after finding out he was telling me the truth, while it was all the others who were lying, I found my cousin, only six months older than I, more worthy of my trust than my own parents. I can remember feeling confused. There was even a little money involved. My cousin bet me a dime that there was no Santa Claus. Taking our argument to the adults, my cousin was made to pay me the dime. (I assume they gave it back to him – but don’t really know that.) I was embarrassed later (maybe another six months or even a year) when I found I had taken his dime wrongly. I tried to give it back, and he wouldn’t take it. (It was as if he were saying, “Look – I told you the truth, and you took my dime – so keep it!” This was embarrassing to me, and a result of lies told to me. But more serious, I think – was the forcing of my cousin to participate in the lie after he had tried to tell the truth.

 

Now how do we feel about this? Are we a little angry that one little boy told another little boy the truth?

 

I am finding this very true among adults. If I tell them the truth, someone is mad at me. To this very day, I am still not sure if it’s good to tell the truth. I’ve done it at church and had glares.

 

Want to hear an example? (Skip the next little paragraph if not.)

 

The first human to live and die on this planet did not live a mere 6000 or so years ago – but much much longer ago than that. These were humans with full languages – tools – fire – societies - etc. – our same species - not just some near-human animals. The geologic record is also contextual – these humans did not come from somewhere else, but were born here on this planet and lived out their lives. They are our actual near ancestors. From the very beginning of the Old Testament, it’s full of lies if we take it literally.

 

That’s the truth – pure and simple. It seems to me that the truth ought to be told to adults – even if some of the fun (and hopefully innocuous) lies may be ok for the children. I know we did the Santa Claus thing with our own kids – and I think it was fine. We revealed the truth at a relatively young age for them, and cautioned them not to harm others with their knowledge. Among adults, I’m not sure if lies are ok. I used to think I was sure that they were not ok – now I’m not sure. I want to be honest with adults, but I also want to be effective. Sometimes honesty appears ineffective and makes enemies (mild or even more so). Do we simply want to be lied to?

 

 

The Visit:

 

This was visit 27 of 52 in The Trip Around The Sun.

 

Escondido First Church of the Nazarene  1555 South Redwood

 

I have had only one other significant interface with the Nazarenes. It was during my mission and was a very positive experience. It was rare to have positive experiences with other churches. Most of them regarded us as the Devil’s teachers.

 

Not so, the Nazarenes.

 

The Yellow Pages said their first meeting was at 9:00, so I showed up about then, only to find that I was well late. The schedule had changed to 8:30. I attended again at 10:45 to make up for my lateness, and to catch the first part of the message. I also attended Sunday School in between. The first meeting was called “New Day Celebration,” and was the guitar version, etc. The second meeting was called “Classic Worship Service,” and was more formal in makeup.

 

This was a nice environment. I’d like to draw a picture of the layout. The “Santuary,” which is “Chapel” to us, was a hexagon. If you cut that hexagon into a six-piece pie, two of those were the stage – pointed at the front - only about a foot high. At the apex was the lectern. Then the seating was in the other four pieces, but with the center empty. The minister could stand exactly at our level there and speak more informally, like teaching a Sunday School class. Then he could step up just a foot or so to the large podium (stage) and behind the lectern to speak more formally. The two sections of podium have three rows of seating against the walls – for the choir, etc. It was a very warm arrangement – kind of a compromise between a regular stage across the front and one like we’ve seen when we go to “Theatre-in-the-round.” I really liked it.

 

There was little difference in the music for the two meetings. The instrumentation was different – guitar in the first – organ and piano in the second, but the songs were essentially the same – with the words projected. That’s obviously popular in both formal and informal meetings, though among the Presbyterians, they did it for the informal and not for the formal meeting. Here among the Nazarenes, they projected for both.

 

In the informal version, there were no ties – even the minister was dressed in shirt and sweater-vest with no tie. Then in the second meeting, I was well under-dressed. Suits and ties were common – including, of course, the minister.

 

Message: This was the same in both meetings.

 

I took lots of notes – but I’ll just put down here a few highlights.

 

Peter came upon a beggar who was lame. Peter had no money – and said, “Silver and gold have I none – but rise and walk and be healed.” The minister asked, “When something like this happens, why would it surprise you?” I thought that an interesting question. It’s as if to say, “This is not news – it’s to be expected.”

 

God is a God of creation, but He is also a God of revelation. (Now I’m curious.)

 

He is a revealing God.

 

He is unfolding His plan. (This looks like modern revelation. The minister did not say He has unfolded, but is unfolding.)

 

Pentecost was the first time people were filled with the Holy Spirit, but it was not the last.

 

(We, of course, would also not regard it as the first, but it’s interesting to hear that the belief here is that it was not the last.)

 

Encounters with the Living God do not have to end.

 

God is always ready to reveal to us.  (!!)

 

Look how they prayed. With praise, not pity. For power, not for protection. With confidence, not cowardly.

 

God is not on someone’s side. I played basketball years ago. Sometimes, we would have prayer in the locker room before the game. Anyone who wanted to could say a few words. Most said things like, “Keep us safe, and help us to play well”, etc. But one guy said, “This team we’re playing today has won every game – we have won none – We really need to beat these guys. Help us to beat them.” As the minister remembers it, they lost that game too.

 

Then he asked an interesting question: “So who’s side would God be on when the Catholics of Notre Dame play the Methodists of SMU?”

 

He didn’t answer the question; he already had. God is not on someone’s side. I thought it interesting that this protestant church would feel about the same for the Catholics as for the Methodists – that both are God’s people who accept Jesus Christ. The interesting part of this was that it was simply an assumption – no explanation required – all the congregation would understand the same. “What does God do with two Christian groups when they both want to win?” I thought of another two groups praying – the farmers for rain – and the group going on a picnic to please not have rain. Will the answer depend on who is the more righteous of the two groups? Or will it depend on who has the greater need? Or will it rain if the conditions are right – and not if not – and God’s doing something else? (We think the latter, right?)

 

At the end of this visit report, I will tell everyone of my first experience with the Nazarenes in the mission field, as it illustrates this attitude. During this Trip, I’ve found quite a few who like all Christian denominations “except maybe the Mormons – and maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses – and maybe the Catholics.”

 

He quoted the Episcopalian, Garrison Keillor. “We don’t come to hear lectures on ethical behavior. We go to hear the mysteries. We come to have an encounter with the Living God. Just a brief moment of transcendence causes one to come out of church as a changed person.”

 

Some of you know Garrison Keillor from “A Prairie Home Companion,” on the radio. He plays the part of being from a small Lutheran town. Leona and I love to listen. He’s not afraid to go outside the square a little – but is at foundation very positive and reverent. Garrison did not grow up Lutheran, but in a small unknown little church. He is now Episcopalian.

 

We don’t need to come to God as a beggar, but boldly – asking for great things that are good. He repeated that we should ask for power, not forgiveness or protection. (I think the assumption here is that we are already forgiven, already protected from any important danger – now it is time to act with power.)

 

We don’t pray to win games – but for power to do good.

 

Serve Him and speak boldly to share it.

 

I enjoyed this talk very much.

 

 

Sunday School:

 

I attended a senior’s class. They have two – one is for really full-blown seniors – and this one for regular seniors.

 

Announcements:

 

Among others, the Christmas party for the class. “How many would come if we have it on a Sunday?” Most raised hands. It appears the letter of the law plays a smaller role here.

 

The teacher was an old Navy man. I could relate to his experiences quite a lot.

“As we get old, the story becomes more and more precious.”

 

“Doing evil because you know no better, that’s what church is for – so we can know better.”

 

“When a guy stands up thanking the Lord, and he uses a couple of swear words, well see, he didn’t know any better.”

 

“All the churches – not just our denomination, are losing reverence”

 

“When Connie left (That’s the Aircraft Carrier Constellation,) there was real reverence. People weren’t making lots of noise – just being reverent as she went away.”

 

“See – we call ships ‘She’ – not ‘He’ – that’s because that ship is like a mother to us.

 

“When I was new on a ship, and had to stand at attention, I was wondering ‘What is this? This is dumb.’ After some time, it was different. I got reverence for that ship.”

 

“Last week, they were having a movie in the sanctuary – and there was people eating popcorn in there. It was like I was stabbed! (He stabbed against his heart.) Boy – on that ship – if someone started eating popcorn while we were at attention – Boom! Gone!”

 

Someone in the class said, “That was only that one time – because the rec. hall was being worked on – and they asked the kids not to take popcorn in there.”

 

“I know – but it was like being stabbed, and they did take popcorn in there.”

 

“The sanctuary is special – and needs reverence.”  “I’ve seen it in the cathedrals in Europe too, and among Muslims too.”

 

(I wondered if the accepting attitude of Nazarenes goes to non-Christian groups as well.)

 

“People say they give their stuff when they die. They didn’t Give it, they Left it. Giving isn’t something you do after you die.”

 

This one made me think of Mom and Dad. They didn’t want to have anything left when they died – and gave away most all of it while they were still alive. They were giving all their lives. They didn’t have lots, but what they had, they reduced to near zero before they died.

 

“If it took gold and silver to win, God would just give us lots of it to give away. That’s not what it takes.”

 

There’s an old story about a guy who asked his wife to be sure that there was a big gold brick in his casket. Arriving at the pearly gates, Peter asks why the guy wants to bring in a “paver.”

 

That’s visit 27 of 52  Trip Around The Sun

 

 

Now the story about the Nazarenes in West Virginia:

In those days, we were not encouraged to be a part of “interfaith” activities. There was, however, a softball league in Logan, West Virginia – consisting of about a dozen teams, one fielded by each of a dozen churches in the area. The Nazarenes had been pretty much dominating – winning the championship about five years in a row.

 

My companion and I were assigned about 11 miles North of Logan in Chapmanville. The Logan elders were both rather “into” athletics, and were able to attract us to join them, along with some local Mormon kids, to form a team.

 

During one of the games, we were playing against the Nazarenes. It was not winter, but it was colder than usual for the season. The Nazarene minister heard us talking about some baptisms we were going to perform in the river.

 

He came to us and told us that they have a font for baptizing in their church. He would be glad to fill it and warm it up, and then we could use it.

 

We baptized two people in that font, with several Nazarenes enthusiastically witnessing, along with some of the Mormons in the area.

 

I have never ceased being impressed with that.

 

(I’m not sure how happy that nice man was with his gift – after the Mormons broke their winning streak and won the championship. It was in the paper. “Mormons beat the Nazarenes.”)

 

Now I’ll just leave this open-ended: If another church needed a font, could ours be made available?

 

I wondered, after what the Sunday School teacher said, if the Nazarenes would be helpful to a Muslim in getting an ordinance performed. ??

 

 

27 of 52  Trip Around The Sun - Escondido First Church of the Nazarene

 

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