Reposted from a post on April 12, 2015 from Washed in Tears.
This week I am sharing an article from my good friend Russell Miller. This was originally posted on his website, Washed in Tears, which he gave me permission to publish here. The picture I chose to go with it is of Vincent Van Gogh’s Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet, which shows a church from a perspective that lacks an entrance. Russell’s perspective is like that to me. He grew up in a cult that distorted his view of Jesus. That has changed over the years, as you will read.
I left this morning with the vague idea that I was probably going to end up at church, but I wasn’t sure. I just started driving. Once I got to the Walker road exit off 217 I decided “You know what, I’m just going to waste most of the day anyway, why not waste a couple of hours of it at church?”
That decided, I turned left on Walker and moseyed on over to Beaverton Foursquare. I chose that because it’s a known quantity. I know two of the pastors there, and several more people who are not pastors. I got to the parking lot entrance, saw all of the dressed up people, late model cars (yeah, I have one too), and police parked there directing traffic. I drove by, thinking to my self “Nope. Not a chance.”
So I turned right on Murray, turned right again on Butner, turned right on Cedar Hills, and found myself right back on Walker. This time I turned in. It was 11:05, about ten minutes before services started. I chose that time on purpose – I knew that most of the people I knew went during earlier services, and I did not want the whole “OH YOU CAME” crap. I only saw one person I knew and by the time I realized I knew him, I had made a beeline for the crapper, trying to avoid a burgeoning panic attack. Ah well. That person I knew was the son of one of my pastor friends, so that is going to be all over the grapevine. Probably was before I left the services. Oh well, that’s how it works.
I decided that I was not going to actually participate, I was just going to sit there and see what happened.
Let me say one thing – it’s far better than that debacle that was the Christmas Eve service. What a disaster that was. That was a contest about who can mess up the holiday classics the most to prove that they had musical chops. It was not anything like that.
The first thing I noticed is that it was about Jesus. No more, no less. From the very moment it started to the moment it ended, that’s exactly what it was about. It started with songs about Jesus, went on to a promotional video about introducing kids to Jesus, they passed around the collection bags so you could give your money to Jesus (ok, I’m stretching that a bit), and then the sermon was about Jesus.
I have been to church services before. The church that I grew up in had nothing to do with Jesus – they claimed to be Christian, but he was pretty much a footnote. You couldn’t even say his name, you had to say “Christ”. Jesus was too protestant. Not here. It was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, everything Jesus, and I’m not actually saying this as a bad thing or sarcastic. For some reason it seemed exactly right, and I can’t even pin down why.
It started out with a song they were singing. I don’t know the name, I can’t remember the words, except for “He is fighting for us, we are not alone, we are not alone” and I almost lost it right there. Maybe that’s too much to hope for, but there it is. It was not about how much of a sinner we all are – I know that. It was not about how much we need him – that’s obvious. It was about what he is.
After all of that was a sermon, about discipleship. Randy (the pastor) was talking about how he says “come follow me” to people who are messed up, and used James and Peter as examples. But the sermon is not the interesting part.
I was looking over the people in the audience watching Randy speak, and as I did, it started to actually feel like something I have not felt in many, many years. It felt like when I would go to conferences and everyone was excited, it felt like people all there for a common purpose, it felt like what tech conferences and feasts and all that should be, but somehow just miss. It felt like something good was happening, instead of the constant emotional and psychic drain that I experience every waking moment of my life. It felt like, for just a moment or two, I was actually charging up instead of draining.
I literally, honestly, can’t remember the last time that happened. Maybe the last time was at a RedHat conference in 2008, but maybe not. Maybe the last time was at a feast in Dayton over 20 years ago.
And yet it was so much better than that, because it actually felt like the focus was in the right place for a change. It wasn’t just excited people. It wasn’t just excited people listening to people speak claiming the name of God. It wasn’t about the meat of the law and how wonderful the millenium is going to be. It was focused in the only place that matters, and for some reason, I felt it.
As much as I hate to say it or even think it, and as much as I honestly dread the reaction to the small group I attend when they find out (I suspect emails are already flying), I’ll probably be back. I don’t know how I could not be.