Monday, January 11, 2016

Church #55. The Church in Edmonton?

Well it was cold. That was for sure. When I got to the building at 10am I discovered the doors were locked. I was then informed by two people idling in their vehicle that the church would be opened soon. So I stood by the the cold.....waiting for someone with a key.

I didn't have to wait too long before the church leader came and opened the doors. But sad to say the inside was not much better. They were having heating problems and told us that they turned the heat on, and that it should warm up soon. That didn't really happen, (despite there attempts to put out space heaters) but the basement ended up being nice and warm (we went downstairs for lunch afterwards).

I found the set-up for the room very interesting: it was a flat-floored room with chairs set up in a square configuration around the center which featured an alter already set up with crackers and a glass of red wine. The population of this church was roughly 80 people with with a very diverse age and ethnic mix, but with a noticeably larger Asian presence.

The worship started in a really unusual way. All I remember was a man sitting in-front of me off to the left moan the phrase "Praise Jesus!". At first I didn't know what was going on. I thought this man might be an individual with some type of a developmental disability, and he was just kind-of speaking at random, but I was wrong. There was purpose to this. The worship was unusual. This is kind of how it looked.

Single Person:" Praise Lord Jesus!"
Whole Church: "Amen!"
Single Person: " You are the one who saves us!"
Whole Church: "Amen!"
Single Person: "You are the one who delivers us!"
Whole Church: "Amen!".......

P.S. the "single person" talking at some points was actually a group of people. All reciting some form of rewritten worship piece, which I am guess had been sent to them, or is available online?  Because most of the people there were reading off their phones.

Do that for about an hour, throw in 4 songs and communion done in a pass-it-down-the-line fashion, and you have the worship service. And a brief moment for personal prayer tacked onto the end.

Then for actual scripture study, we were divided into 5 groups and given a sheet with a piece of scripture and some explanatory text with it. All the "young people" were encouraged to go out into there own group first, so I followed. This group was headed by the church leader. After the material was read allowed we were given the readers digest-style explanation of it based on the explanatory text (not the scripture) and then it was questioned and discussed.

I am still shaking my head reading this piece of paper today, as I did when I first received it.

It covers two parables in Matthew 13:33 and 13:44.

13:33 Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened. 

13:44 The kingdom is like the a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid, and in his joy goes and sells all that he has, and buys the field. 

(There is no reference as to what style of translation this is from.) 

Needles to say I was unimpressed with the explanatory text that was given.

The first sentence sums up the body of the text pretty well. "In God's eyes, the old and traditional practices in Christianity without the presence and reality of Christ are part of the present evil age."  It goes on to explain that we need to be aware of and avoid "Religion" which is described as "dead doctrinal knowledge" that can be found "in Satin's department". In this case this text defines religion as "to worship God, to work for God, To keep the law, and to improve ourselves and do so many good things religiously without the presence of Christ." 

Please note that at no point in this explanatory text is an explanation or break-down of the words and meanings in Matthew 13:33 and 13:44, given to the reader.

 Then there was something that did impress me. A young lady spoke up and looked past the "Religion is the work of the devil" them and asked for the same thing I was seeking. A real break down of the parables.

She pointed out that "leaven" or "yeast" is almost always referred to as bad in all other parts of the bible (and this is true). The church leader and another middle aged lady replied and said this was correct. And then gave her that this is an explanation of evil filtering its way into the world. But then this young lady came back and told them that this didn't make sense, because this parable is describing the nature of heaven. Then it was told to her that the leaven described the pure and central goodness that god intended for the church, and that the three measures of meal were all of the other "impurities" that have become fully ingrained and burred Gods true intention for the church.

I saw here shake her head at one point. I think we all knew that we were not about to get a competent answer. I could have stepped in and raised hell. But I decided to contribute what I felt was very lacking: explanation. So I gave the background info on what the purpose of "leaven" was in ancient bread making methods, why our Jewish ancestors saw it as negative, and a reminder of the current state of affairs during the Exodus and Passover.

I saw every face in the room perk up and stair at me like I had just said something profound.

There were a few other statements in this that I found interesting such as: " The darkness of religion overshadows the entire earth. People have been drugged with religion, and are fully under its influence. Therefore the Lord has no way to fulfill his eternal purpose in religion, including Judaism Catholicism and Protestantism."

The one that really got an eyebrow raise out of me was Judaism.

God has no way to fulfill his purpose in Judaism? And its laws and practices?
Wasn't there a book in the bible that is nothing but a recording of all the old Jewish laws? Laws that were literally given to the Israelite's by God? The Law of the 10 Commandments which was given literally written in God's hand?

*walks across room and opens Bible to the book of Deuteronomy*
Yep. Its still in there....

I am not sure what this churches opinion is on the topic of "is the Bible Perfect?" But for argument's sake, lets assume that they think it is. Maybe I got this wrong.... but what it sounds like to me is that the only conclusion to this is that God set-up and "EVIL RELIGION" when God laid out the rules and practices of Judaism.

But this could be explained if you go out on a limb and tap into Gnostic theology. But wait! It was declared in the concluding statements of this bible study that the Gnostic's and Secularism are both tools of Satin's "Evil Age."


But what about the verses in Matthew? What this all started with? Which apparently back this "Evil Religion" sermon?

I don't know why one would select these verses to try and make this argument. Any of the other punished commentary that I have found is very positive and loving. Besides, we are talking about a vision of the kingdom of heaven after all.  See link below:

Commentaries on Matthew 13-33

In my opinion, that could have been done a lot better. If you are going to address the problem of people that practice "Religion" vs. serving God mindfully with their heart and soul. Actually pick a verse that clearly talks about it.

Such as ;

Matthew 23:23-28 (NTL)
Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders

23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![h]
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

It has been a while since I have seen something like this. But I am going to call this for what it is. 

In my opinion, and note..... I don't use this phrase lightly.
This was a case of Bible Twisting

I call 'em like I see 'em. 

Soon we returned to the room where each group had a member stand up and give a statement on the conclusions of each groups bible study.

As the statements were given, I took time to reflect on all of the "Religion-based" things I saw in this church.

- Reference to the "Bride Groom and his Bride" -Judaism
- Alter in the center of the room.- Judaism

But the icing on the cake had to be the lady the was wrapped in may scarves, wearing a doily on her head, that stood up and praised god for "Plucking us up from the Evil Jewish Religion!" 

*bites fist trying not to laugh.
See link: Women and Religious head coverings

Despite all of this I heard at least one thing I enjoyed today. One lady related living in Christ to the process of Physiotherapy. She said that (she?) had attended physio for her arm and that they taught her all the movements and exercises that she needed to do. But she knew if she went home and didn't do them, she would come back no better then she was before. To her, that is what living in Christ was. You go to church and they teach you what to do, but you don't get any better if you don't live for Christ the other 6 days of the week.

Quote of the day:

"God wants us to be his Expression!"

Despite my huge issue with the theology of this church. The people were actually really nice (save a few). They invited me downstairs for their lunch buffet, which was amazing by the way. I spoke with many of them about my ventures and future plans.

My conclusions on this church are simple. It was a good idea that kind of went sideways. It was like a baseball player hit a home run, but the ball went a funny direction and it ended up flying backwards and into the stands where it clipped a lady's arm, bounced off the seat, and broke a guys nose.

Yes I agree that there are a lot of Christians out there that follow ritual and have no concept of Christ in their heart,  and that these people are making no progress towards being closer to God. That is concerning for their sake and can also give the rest of us a bad name. But I don't think think this church is the answer to this issue.

At least not like this.