So today I ventured off to church, and I was not looking forward to it. Like, at all. To explain this, I need to take us on a quick detour.
A few months ago, I was walking down Whyte ave and we all know that Whyte has it share of street preachers. This can include all kinds of characters including but not limited to: the people that stand on a soap box with a megaphone, the Jehovahs Witnesses and their pamphlet stands, the teams of slick-dressed Mormon missionaries walking their beat, and the people that hand out random evangelizing cartoon booklets. Yes, we have all of these.
And in all honestly I would have preferred any of the above over what I encountered.
Normally when I see some of these street preachers I either wave and smile, or walk right past them if they are screaming at me thru a megaphone.
But a few months earlier, I was simply walking walking the far end of the ave, when I encountered a heavy set woman (roughly 27 years old) dressed in a skirt and professional office attire. She was walking in the direction towards me and before I knew it, she had stepped her whole body in front of me, and put her face six inches from my nose, and she blurted the phrase "Have you heard about God the Mother?!?!" Probably what disturbed me most about all this, woman's eyes. They were just this blank, straight-staring, unmoved blur. This woman was clearly brainwashed. She appeared to have no ability to comprehend outside information even in the form of basic conversation.
I had to ask myself what could have possibly happened to this person to make them like this? It was like this person must have been raised in a cage? Or a cardboard box? Regardless, the site of her was very disturbing.
Normally I would never get into a discussion with these people because I know that God wants us to commit our time towards more meaningful things than debating theology with lunatics on the street. Especially ones that think the best way to bring you to Christ is to get in your face and yell at you.
I tried to defuse the situation by telling her that I have heard about the "god the mother" theology (among others), and that I was already a Christian. That was apparently not enough to let me off the hook. So I thought "Fine. You wanna fight? Lets fight!". So after a raging theology debate, I was able to step my way around this raging whale of a woman, and continue my walk.
By the way, she made it very clear that she is from "The Church of God".
Now there are a large multitude of churches in the city with that name and I am really not sure if all of them are actually related to each other. But one thing I do know for sure is that there is only one "Church of God" in the area where I was walking.
That is the church I am visiting today.
I have had to question myself on if I am still willing to visit certain churches, as I am now understanding what groups and divisions I do or do not agree with. Some that I could even put all the way to the point of being dangerous. But after some thought and pastoral guidance, I have concluded that I should still keep going to these places (sparsely). Because despite them being hard to handle and often resulting in impassioned and angry rants, there is value in them. Because often after I take a hard look at them, I grow in the depth of my desire to avoid some of these (what I perceive to be) un-Christ-like ways and be driven even stronger towards building the kind of love God wants to see in this world.
I knew from the get-go that this was going to be rough. So I got up early went for a walk, prayed, listen to the church bells ring, took nature photographs, and planned to go for brunch afterwards and get one of these babies....
Say hello to The Tavern's XXXL Caesar! For all your boozy Sunday brunchfest needs! This is literately a drink with over a dozen garnishes and including a skewered grilled cheese sandwich!
Just like Jesus, this should also be an essential part of your Sunday morning routine!
For more info, visit here!
Now that I have clearly made you hungry (and crave salt), lets go to church!
The first thing that was apparent was the fact that I was clearly under-dressed. All the men in this place where in full suits, and the women were all in nice dresses, with all their hair and make-up fully done. And so there I stood with my sneakers, jeans and shoulder bag, and of course my grey "Lion of Judah" T-shirt.
What? I was wearing my church shirt!
I actually picked up the t-shirt in New York at at the Clear Water Festival! Check out the artist and his online store here!- rockstarrevolution.com
So I snuck in right as the service started and sat in the back next to a mom with all of her kids.
This is, at minimum, the second church that I have now seen that uses a large brass band to start their services.The first church where I saw this was the Salvation Army Church. The band was quite large (roughly 24 people.) Most of the people in the band were in their teens and 20's. This church was fairly full. There were roughly 150 people in attendance. Still a majority of seniors, but there was a few middle aged people and also many young families. Everyone that I could see in the room was caucasian.
The reading today was Matthew 13: 44-46 NIV
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
Then the choir sang. I felt the worship at this kind of church was very "just sit there and listen". The room did not actively sing with the choir or any music, and prayers were generally not said in a group fashion.
The topic of the day was "Where should we store our treasure?"
He basically explained that we should not become obsessed with hoarding earthly possession because you can't take it with you. And all those material things you collected mean squat in Gods Kingdom. So the right to do is to take the resources that we have and invest them in things that will be valuable in Gods Kingdom, whether that means financially supporting your local mission or congregation, giving clothing and food to a person in need, or volunteering your time for a worthy cause, etc. etc.
He clarified that we do not earn our way into heaven because salvation is given freely. He also mentioned an interesting story about some missionaries that gauged the value of everything in their lives against its eternal value and not its earthly value. I can imagine that would make for a very interesting everyday life.
He also advised that we should not be so near-sighted with our treasures. And then for some reason thru in a quick comment about atheists? He stated that non-believers are thinking that this life is simply a short interval and they hope there is nothing after so they don't have to be accountable in this life. Personally, I find this to be a bold blanket statement which I don't think is true for all atheists. But I need to be honest with you. I personally know a few people in this category.
He spoke of young people working hard to hoard money, as well as seniors who are still putting away every penny even at the very end of their lives.
But at the same time, there is a big difference in my mind when it comes to saving to build frivolous material wealth and saving for necessity.
But the reality is that there are a lot of people out there that didn't save enough for retirement. There are many seniors that will be forced to work until the day they die, or be forced into retirement without enough money to sustain them. They will suffer in poverty lacking basic necessities. And that includes food. Seniors eating cat food is a thing. Sad truth. there are many ways you can help combat this. One local organization I would recommend is -Adopt-a-Grandparent
After the service ended I had one lady with her children ask me who I was and what I was doing there. So I explained just that and handed her my business card. As soon as I did that, I was meet with a small sea of angry middle aged woman staring at me. Their sour faces made for an odd contrast to formal dresses they were all wearing.
Speaking of the clothes.
I feel the need to bring up the whole "what is proper church clothing"? question. The simplest and most effective answer I have heard to this question is that we should "Dress in a way that glorifies God." So what is that anyhow? To some, it is dressing modestly in order to be "humble before god" in a sense. Others see dressing fancy as a showing of "giving God our best", harking back to the offerings that the Israelites would bring to the later. To others, it may be wearing affordable everyday clothes, as to not alienate our brothers and sisters that have less money, and show solidarity with the poor. And heck! Some people go to church naked! In the southern USA there is actually a significant number of nude churches.
To a lot of people they think the lines are simple, but I really don't think it is all that simple and clean-cut.
Here is a good example. I have a friend that has always fought with her weight. Always. Now in her late 20's thru much faith and perseverance, she has achieved a healthy weight. To celebrate, she went out and bought something she always wanted, but could never wear: a belly shirt. Yes, a belly shirt. That kind that girls were banned from wearing in school, and that Britney Spears made all the rage in the 90's! So where was the first place she wore it? Church. To her, that shirt was a clear and defining example of clothing that "Glorified God" and what God has done in her life.
You are probably wondering why I have no pictures of the church. lets just say I didn't feel the need to stick around until the place cleared out.
Instead feel free to enjoy my nature photos!
Have a good week everyone!