Do you remember way back in the beginning of the summer when I told you about how my family would be visiting other churches this summer? Remember how I told you that we were not switching churches? Yeah, we’re still not switching churches. Remember how I was going to blog about it every week? Well, I guess I kind of lied about that part. I promise that I really was going to write about all of the churches we visited every week. It was going to be amazing. I was going to bring you the beauty and individuality that makes each separate church unique and amazing. Once this beauty was exposed, people were going to develop a curiosity about other churches, visit them, and all Christians would unite together, supporting each other and appreciating our differences as a beautiful thing.
There was only one problem. One huge glaring problem.
All of the churches we visited were pretty much exactly the same.
It’s really hard to write a new blog every week that says “We sang a few songs, the pastor got up and talked about how awesome God is, if we showed up on the right week we took communion, sang one more song and then a bunch of people asked us who we were.”
How many times would you really want to read that? I hope not many.
Some weeks it seemed like the only real difference was the name at the top of the bulletin and the way the particular pastor inflected words. Apparently we think there is a huge difference between “GOD is awesome”, “God IS awesome” and God is AWESOME”. I started to wonder, why don’t the fifty local churches just pool their money for one big building and each pastor takes one week of duty? I really don’t think too many people would notice.
Today, however, we noticed.
Today we went to a local congregational church. I was kind of looking forward to this because I had met the pastor of this church before and he is a really nice guy. He seems to love kids and be very welcoming to new people. I don’t know much about congregational churches, but I assumed they were pretty typically protestant. The only real question I was asking when we walked in the door was “Red hymnal, blue hymnal, or green hymnal?” It was red in case you were wondering.
Pretty much right away, the children were called up for a children’s sermon. Oh, this will be cute! I thought. The pastor told the children the story about the loaves and the fishes. If you are not a christian (and I’m totally okay with it if you’re not) you might not know the story. It goes a little something like this.
Jesus was trying to get some alone time but the people were desperate for Him. They all showed up at the pretty remote place where He was trying to mourn the death of His cousin, but instead of telling them to get lost He just loved on them. He healed them and comforted them and talked to them.
Pretty soon, it started getting late and Jesus’ friends said “Hey, Jesus. It’s late and these people should probably eat something. Let’s call it a night so they can go buy some dinner.” Jesus said “Nah, there’s a lot of really good stuff going on here. You guys just feed them.” Jesus’ friends were like “Dude! Feed them what? Literally the only food here is that kid’s lunch of five pieces of bread and a couple sardines!” Jesus responded with “That sounds like a good meal! Feed them that!”
And they did.
Not only did they feed thousands of people, but there was a bunch of food left over! It was an actual miracle. Because He’s Jesus.
Here is a picture of exactly what it probably looked like.
Just kidding. It probably looked a lot more like some people in a hot desert climate hanging out together outside and having a good time. Think more outdoor festival.
Like this. Except without the cell phones and imagine everyone is Middle Eastern.
Here is how the pastor of this church demonstrated this story. First, he gave each child two goldfish crackers. Next, he had kids go out into the church and ask people for candy. Huggy gave up her gum. Finally, he had the kids put all the candy and the fish crackers on the alter. “Look!” he said “See how much food we actually had? Isn’t it nice when we share? God wants us to share!” Then he sent the children back to their seats.
Um, wait! I thought. You forgot to talk about the miracle! Also, I donated some mints and if we do “Pass the Peace”, I’m really going to need those back.
Then came the time for the sermon. The sermon was this.
“The story about the loaves and the fishes is actually a story about sharing. You see, all of those people had actually brought food. They just weren’t willing to share it until Jesus guilted them into it. Also, God doesn’t actually really heal people, we just have access to really good medicine because we work harder than people did at any other point in history.” I edited it a little for time, but not much. And yes, the last part seemed really random to me too.
I was confused. So, there was no miracle? The people were all just hiding the loaves and fishes? Are you also going to tell me that the water was actually just white wine the whole time and Lazarus was having some life saving operation for four days in the tomb?
As this sermon was preached, I watched the face of The Pastor (my pastor) get more and more red. About half way through, he leaned over to me and said “I want to leave. NOW!”
I did not let us leave. Partly because seven people standing up and walking out during the sermon would be a huge distraction and I am not a rude person. Also, I was kind of hoping that there would be a big “Just Kidding!” at the end.
There was no kidding. He was totally serious. Apparently this church “doesn’t do” miracles. They believe that if it can’t be explained by science or logic, then it didn’t actually happen.
I believe in science. I think you’d be crazy not to. I also believe that we need logic. Everyone should study it so that we can make good choices and discuss things well.
I also believe in miracles. If we don’t have miracles, then there is not deity in God. If God doesn’t break his own rules of science once in a while and throw down some amazing impossible miracle, then God is just some invisible man who sits in the clouds laughing at us. (I totally believe God laughs at us, by the way. We are far too ridiculous not to laugh at occasionally.) I have seen far to many actual miracles to not believe in them.
If you’re going to remove the deity from God, then why are you even going to church? If you think Jesus was just some nice guy who walked around encouraging people to share, I’m fine with that. As long as you don’t try to pass yourself off as a Christian.
So, we did leave early. We waited for a transition where everyone was standing. Because while we didn’t agree with what was being preached, we are also not rude. I was kind of glad we left early so I didn’t have to referee the “discussion” I was sure would take place if the pastor greeted The Pastor after the service.
I was also glad that my kids did not seem to take the sermon seriously. The older four just looked amused, and Baby Snarky spent the entire sermon saying “I don’t think Huggy is going to get her gum back. Do they know that is her gum? Do they know she bought that gum with her own money? Are they just stealing it? Because they certainly are not sharing it!”
Walking out on church was a new experience for me. One that I thought might make an interesting blog. It is definitely a new experience for me. So, for the first time this summer, it was not church as usual.
We actually walked out on church.
As we went to the car, The Pastor asked the kids what they thought.
“I think that pastor must have some serious halitosis problems.” one of them said. “I mean, I can’t think of any other reason for that weird children’s sermon, but he could have just asked.”
And yes, we bought Huggy new gum on the way home.