Monday, May 26, 2008

first service (and everything else in parentheses)

yesterday, up before 7 with the sun leaking through the plastic shades. showered and walked to the coffee shop around the corner. (is there a corner without one here?) waited for jay-thomas to pick me up. we got to grace sometime after 8. the church is a seventh day adventist church, perfect situation - it's empty on sundays. it is perched on a gentle slope on capitol hill, surrounded by houses and deep green. i stood in the parking lot and talked with lee grooms, the church's administrator. in the lobby of the church were bulletins and sheets of information, some explaining how the diaconate ministry of the church worked, another giving ten ways in which people could responsibly care for the earth. (it is really time that people stopped rejecting environmental consciousness as a by-product of the sixties, or a the ravings of the fringe left - this is a stewardship issue, and important to any believing christian) church started at 9, and people continued to slowly file in till around 915. the first service was primarily older members, families with kids. the younger crowd comes to the 11 o'clock service.
michael gave the welcome and call to worship. absolutely everything is written out in the bulletin; it's a bulletin for novices. and when it comes to church it seems that this city is filled with novices of this type. the music has been mostly rewritten by the church's music guy, phil peterson. i didn't get a chance to meet him yesterday. he's recovering from an attack from a k9 police dog. apparently he was mowing his lawn at 2 in the morning (by all reports a very phil thing to do) and was bitten by the dog that had somehow gotten loose.
john's sermon was the first, possibly second, in a series on personal holiness. he made a number of caveats, "some of you may have been in situations where calls to personal holiness have been a destructive thing." (i can just hear my mother now, "hmmm.")
regardless of whether or not someone has grown up in the church or claims to be a christian, the issue of holiness is an essential one. it seems to me that a worthwhile distinction ought to be made between personal morality and godly holiness. the latter is what we are called to by scripture the former is a cultural construct in which we can attain our own self-righteousness. my brother mentioned to me that he felt like the key to life was being a good person, and trying hard not to be harmful. funny thing is, he said, i'm probably a better person than a lot of christians out there. and he's probably right. of course, that isn't the point. the reason that john haralson had to make certain caveats is that for too long the church in america has confused morality with the substance of christianity. in other words, to be christian is to be moral. the obvious problem with this is that there are plenty of people who are moral without being christian. and if someone can be a moral person without christianity than why bother with christianity. easy answer, you don't. this is the result of a confusion. the real issue, and the one that i posed to my brother is not, are you a good person, but who do you think Jesus was/is? anybody who presents christianity and makes it about morality and not about Jesus has the wrong christianity.

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