Changing churches will change your life
MORE: is that what I’ve been looking for?
I try to be Minimalist, truly I do. But part of me needs MORE.
I found MORE in my reading and writing: using symbols, teaching students about symbols, looking for those hidden meanings in words and images.
My spiritual side was neglected, however. It’s taken me years to find where MORE would be constantly fed.
Trying to feed my spirit by myself worked enough to keep me going, but it wasn’t enough. I needed MORE.
I grew up in one of those stripped-down Protestant churches that barely, barely noticed the church year.
We had Easter—which was usually a competition to see who brought the most family members. (Yes, I know. I thought that promotion inappropriate, too.) I wanted more.
Christmas was a potluck, one of many potlucks at that church, with gifts for the children. (I don’t remember a red-dressed Santa when I grew up, but they had added him by the time I was a young adult.) Everyone went home with a paper grocery bag of fresh fruits and unshelled nuts and red-striped mints. (Yes, I know. We should have had a little caroling, at least.) I wanted more.
Sitting in that church, I would stare at the bare walls and plain windows (changed for “art” glass in later years), and I wished for more.
Typical More is Less
- Every service in that church had three hymns, not including the hymn at the end.
- During one of those first hymns, the offering was taken, and everyone was reverently silent as we gave our donations to the church. (And some looked around to see who wasn’t giving.)
- Following those hymns was the choir special, sometimes followed by another special (a soloist or a duet or a trio).
- Every sermon was thirty minutes, more or less. God forbid we went past noon and interfered with people getting to local restaurants.
- The service ended with the altar call, whatever number of verses from an appropriate hymn, then a prayer by a deacon so the minister could hurry to the church doors and greet everyone as they left. (Isn’t that strange? Greeting people as they depart. Surely that’s the wrong way around?)
Stumbling Upon More
As a young adult, I visited a local church in a different denomination and was impressed by their banners on the wall. I still remember two of those banners: one had flames emblematic of the Holy Spirit; another had a lamb with a cross. That church recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed at every Sunday service. That was more.
I knew about the Lord’s Prayer. I wasn’t ignorant of my Bible. Saying the prayer every Sunday, though, that was new to me. Saying it with the whole congregation: totally new.
And finding out that we don’t “say” the Lord’s Prayer, we “pray” it: Wow! Totally new.
The Apostle’s Creed, completely new. Never heard of it. Didn’t know much about church history. Didn’t know there were other things out there besides the Lord’s Prayer. I prefer the traditional version of the Creed.
And I had gone to Training Union, sat in Sunday School for years, never missed a church service for YEARS, and I didn’t know this basic, hundreds-year-old creed of my faith?
I knew the Roman Road. Had that one down, pat, just in case I ever had to lead someone to Christ. (Look at that terminology: HAD to lead, like it was a job rather than a calling. [shakes her head sadly].)
More was out there. I needed to find it. What other things were out there that I had always longed for?
My search took me through other denominations and religions. One thing remained constant: my belief :: my faith in Christ Jesus, my awe of God, a need for the Holy Spirit.
I argued that worship should occur in God’s realm, out in His nature, not in a man-constructed building. I still believe that, but I have now admitted that my argument was merely a convenient excuse to sleep in on Sunday.
Growth needed: If I want more sleep, I should take a nap.
I complained about the church being filled with hypocrites. Sunday believers, who have road rage six days of the week, parents who abuse their children, children who shoplift for the thrill, bullies in the workplace, bigots of all political persuasions.
Growth needed: You know, church is the best place for hypocrites. They need to come closer to God, don’t they? Where else than church will sinners be surrounded by people filled with God’s love ?
I became frustrated with church politics and churches being hijacked by political agendas and churches that let corruption rise up and churches that shun and churches that close doors and close the Lord’s table and dozens of things.
Growth needed: We “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
There, that’s out of the way.
Today, after many years of seeking, I participated in something I have never done before: a Palm Sunday celebration designed to commemorate the Palm Sunday of Christ. “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest.” In that packed church, palms were everywhere, waving above heads, lifted high, twirled about.
I’m old, ooolllldddd, and this is new to me.
We sang “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)”, that wonderful song that I linked to at the start of this blog.
We sang “Take me to the King”. Danaya at my new church did a phenomenal job, but Tamela Mann does it best.
All my life I’ve heard of Palm Sunday. It was a passing notice in churches I once attended. The minister would sometimes preach about tithing, so appropriate with the tax deadline looming near.
Today, with this, this waving of palms, this celebration of hearts turning to God, this onset of Holy Week, one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church, this is MORE.
Holy Week is MORE
Holy Week is the culmination of Lent, 40 days of fasting and prayer while we focus on the events of Christ’s life on earth.
Each day of Holy Week is designed to guide us to thinking about Christ’s sacrifice for us, His love for lowly sinners, this God-made-man in order to bring us into relationship with Him.
And Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday.
Knowing what awaits Him, Christ enters Jerusalem. The fickle people celebrate this great man whom they think is no more than a prophet with special gifts of healing. The power-hungry leadership rubs their hands together as they think, ‘Now we can trap him,’ and never know that His sacrifice is a willing one.
Come with me on my Devotional journey as I share the MORE that I have just recently discovered.
For when we see Him, we find strength to face the day. [Just a slight alteration to the lyrics of Brendan Brown and Paul Beloche ;).]