I’ve already mentioned one reason I wear a tie at church. Here’s another:
I wear a tie so that other guys who wear ties don’t feel goofy or out of place.
With an Infinite God, You can have it both ways. You have real free will and God is really in control of everything that happens in the universe.
I’ve already mentioned one reason I wear a tie at church. Here’s another:
I wear a tie so that other guys who wear ties don’t feel goofy or out of place.
We’ve all been there. We’re talking to one of our pastors who is soon to be giving a sermon and we want to say something that will encourage and inspire them as they prepare to open the Word for our congregation. Maybe they’re an associate pastor who very rarely gives the sermon. Maybe ‘speaking in public’ isn’t their forte. Or maybe they place ‘speaking in public’ between ‘being crawled on by large spiders’ and ‘dying’ as they rank their list of fears.
So you want to be helpful. But be careful – there are some remarks that aren’t as encouraging as you might think. And since lead pastors might be taking vacations during the upcoming holidays forcing non-lead ministers to give the Sunday message, I thought now might be a good time, as a handy resource, to list a few of them. So here are …
Five Comments you might think are encouraging/helpful for a pastor about to give a sermon, but actually aren’t:
1. The Video:
Hey, Reverend – you may notice the video recorder in the back, saving for all of posterity every single word you say as you expound on Second Chronicles. But don’t worry – most likely only a few people will see it when they post it on the church website next week. Like your mom. Oh, that’s right, she doesn’t use the internet. So it might be nobody. That is, unless you accidentally say something horrifically embarrassing. Then it’ll go viral and the whole world will watch that seven second clip over and over. But then you’d be famous. So it’s win/win.
Reason it’s not helpful: People in the pews might be distracted by his strained and singular focus on the camera lens.
2. The Research:
I must say, I’m really impressed. The massive amount of inquiry it must take to give a sermon on Matthew 5 … well it must just occupy weeks and weeks to read all of the commentaries to make sure you’re not saying something ridiculous about the text. Studying the greek, listening to famous 19th century preachers exposition, reading the text (and the context) in several different versions (including the ‘Message’). And don’t forget the really popular bloggers! Why, if I hadn’t spent a whole bunch of days exegeting, I’d be sure I’d missed something crucial, decisive, fundamental and/or essential. I’d feel like I was flying blind. So it’s just great that you’ve made sure to do all that.
Reason it’s not helpful: Your pastor, knowing that he’s done each of those things, might be tempted towards pride.
3. The Obvious:
Pastor, I was just reading James 3 the other day – you know the part that says, “Not many of you should become teachers because we know that teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” Yeah, that part. Well, you’re a braver man than I am. I’d be all – what if I say something about the church (for example) that’s different from what the bible says? A great, big, extra helping of judgment in the form of a mini, one-man-sized cyclone, that’s what, maybe!
Reason it’s not helpful: Some scholars feel the word “teacher” here only applies to those speaking to modestly sized groups of people of less than a dozen or so*.
4. The Inflammation.
What’s that, Reverend? It’s not your goal to offend this Sunday’s service attenders? No, no, that’s your job! You want them to think, and the best way to do this is to dive headlong into really, really controversial topics. No, no, I don’t think it will get you into trouble with the elders. They’ll just say, “What happens in the pulpit, stays in the pulpit.” The very angry letters you receive you can just laugh off as “small-minded”. And really, letters from our church constituency to the denominational leadership demanding forced resignations are fairly rare.
Just think over and over – “Not peace, but a sword …. Not peace, but a sword.”
Reason it’s not helpful: What if he says something you disagree with?
5. The Equipment:
I can’t help but notice that you’re using one of those teeny tiny very-near-your-face skin colored stick microphones. Well, be careful. My wife’s brother’s mother in law once was using one of those and it slipped and she accidentally stabbed herself. In her ear**. She had to go to the emergency room and everything. The doctors were calling other doctors over: “Hey, this lady split open her eardrum with something other than a q-tip!”
So, you know… Don’t do that.
Reason it’s not helpful: Your pastor might be tempted to use the “pierced eardrum” excuse to get out of preaching.
In short, if the pastor you’re “encouraging” cringes or starts to back away as you’re talking with him, you might want to try a different approach. Like maybe just, “I’ll pray for you.”
Did I miss any?
* Actually, no scholars feel that.
** True story. And no, the pastor I told it to was not encouraged.
After more than a year of writing, recording, mixing and mastering – we’ve finally finished the new set of songs.
Here’s our sample video (it’s bluegrass!)
Here’s the link to the Amazon page …
Here’s the link to the iTunes page …
And here’s the official description:
“This CD contains 39 helpful and encouraging songs – passages from fourteen books of the Bible.
Featuring the talents of 35 musicians (adults and children), the musical styles are varied, including folk, jazz, pop, blue grass, doo-wop, string quartet and even Gregorian chant. The arrangements are designed so that you will enjoy listening to them and will learn the songs quickly and easily.
Here are some of the familiar passages on this CD: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) — The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vein (Psalm 127:1) — “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26) — Fear not, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10) — “My Sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10:27-30).
Every Fighter VerseTM Songs CD includes word-for-word Bible passages (English Standard Version) set to music. These passages are specifically selected to help believers fight the fight of faith. The Fighter VerseTM Songs also coordinate with the Fighter VerseTM Bible memory program from Children Desiring God. Your children will memorize scripture without even trying-and so will you!”
The next time someone in your sphere of people bothers you because they are too nice, or too harsh, or too happy or two-level headed or too flighty or too … consider:
Perhaps God put them in this situation as a counter to your effect on it.
There is a non-trivial subset of the population that experiences a temporary loss of peace and sanity (if only at a low level) if they have to eat food on a styrofoam plate. I recommend other materials for serving food to your guests.
As I understand it, the English language (as used in America today) has two meanings for the word “Fail”.
1. Being unable to meet a goal (even if you did real, extensive and competent work towards meeting the goal).
2. Being unable to meet a goal because you didn’t really try or because you tried in a poor manner.
Generally speaking, our culture doesn’t call you a “failure” unless you’ve failed in the second way.
If you’ve failed in the first way, you needn’t be ashamed.
In modern day America, it is often the case that when someone says, “Thank God!” they actually mean, “Finally, I’m getting what I deserve.” So instead of humble thankfulness, this phrase indicates bitter entitlement.
This is very close to using the Lord’s name in vain.
If you are talking to someone, take off your sunglasses. Your eyes are valuable to the conversation.
In the entire set of lyrics in the song “Bless the LORD (Ten Thousand Reasons)” there is exactly one rhyming couplet.
Two years ago today, August 1st, 2012, Pastor Jason started as Bethlehem’s ‘Associate Pastor for Preaching & Vision‘*. I thought I’d commemorate the date by posting some of the funny quotes from his sermons since then. As always, these quotes are completely out of context and are from his sermons. I hope you enjoy them.
31 Funny Quotes from Pastor Jason Meyer
I get so many sweet notes of encouragement. In fact, even when you ask me to do something, it’s given in such a sweet way that I just love it. Like: Will you please look at the camera more? Oh! Yes! Thank you! I love you! Thank you for telling me that! I’m going to try to do better about that.
[Regarding calling other Christians ‘brother’ and ‘sister’] I work very hard not to use those words as a cover-up when I can’t remember a name. Hi Pastor Jason! Oh, hi … brother!
Let’s go with me into a labor room. What do you see there? Well, I’ll tell you, what you shouldn’t see. This is an awful trick for a dad. They give you one of those things that measure contractions? You know what I’m talking about? So that the contraction’s there on the little machine and you see it going up like this and you’re tempted to think, “Oh, that was a small one, why are you in such pain? Oh that- I see now, that was a big one.” But see … never … no. No. Husbands, no! They should not have those machines in there.
But what you do see in one of those rooms is never this. You never see a woman, after she goes through such horrible pain (I’ve never seen pain like that, as when I saw my wife in labor) But here’s what you’ll never see: When the baby is handed to the mother, you’ll never see a mother say, “I went through all that for this? That wasn’t worth it.” You never see that. And you never will. Because the pain is swallowed up in Joy.
Do you want to know my new year’s resolution? I’ll tell you my new year’s resolution. It’s to spread a passion for the Supremacy of God in all things for the Joy of all people through Jesus Christ. If you think that’s cheating, it’s not!
[Regarding his early fatherhood] I could not feed my daughters without opening my mouth. My wife and I used to joke about this – no, you don’t need to open your mouth.
Women find it hard to stand that men have a ‘nothing box’. You know, you’re driving somewhere, “What are you thinking about?” “Nothing.” And we really mean it!
When Pastor John came to my office to see if I was interested in being a candidate, one of the questions he asked me was, “Are you somebody that doodles about structure?” I said, “No… Are you?” And he said, “Yeah.”
You can be called a Yankee very quickly if you say things like ‘Pop’.
Let me talk to the kids for a moment: Kids, you may not do this in your family but it’s amazing in most families how we can study our brothers and sisters to learn how to ‘provoke’ them. How to get a rise out of them. I didn’t just do that with my brothers and sisters I did that with my dad, too. And I found it to be a sinful pleasure to provoke him because he was such a laid back guy. To get a rouse out of him at all was really doing something. So I found out that if I would stand behind him and flick his ears …. and keep doing it, there was a battle of wills going on … eventually he would: Jason, would you stop it already! And I would feel a smug sense of satisfaction that I had gotten a response out of him. So, kids let’s be clear: I’m not calling you to do that. I don’t want any letters from angry fathers getting their ears flicked. I’m calling you to provoke something positive.
“It’s not good to hide it under a bushel, No! Right?”
[Jesus and the fig tree] It’s not an injustice on a tree!
I want people to turn to 2 Corinthians 11. Everybody look it up. It will be worshipful to hear pages turning.
Someone asked me “What book are you going to be preaching on” and I said, “Second Corinthians” and he said, “Why? Are you mad at us already?”
All of the members of the Godhead are in your salvation. Think you might make it?
[On using ‘Caught in a trap’ as a sermon illustration] I almost didn’t do it because it was so clever, but then I remembered that Pastor John quoted Bono, so I thought I could quote Elvis.
If you don’t like nuance, you don’t like the Bible.
I wouldn’t join a church that couldn’t kick me out.
If I was really good I could have thought of four P’s, but I wanted to be more correct than clever.
You’re not going to go to Home Depot and go to the parapet aisle.
The sovereignty of God allows you to share the gospel without being a jerk.
When I was a kid, I heard people say, “Heaven is like an eternal church service”. So what I did as a kid is I took my church service, which bored me to death, and multiplied it out through all eternity. And it wasn’t good news.
God helps those who help themselves – Baloney!
There’s another word that I coined for ‘messiness’. It’s called ‘normal’.
So many questions can be answered by reading the next verse.
[About symbolism and writing romantically] It’s going to read differently than a medical document, or you write really bad love letters.
Chocolate-covered crosses? Chocolate-covered torture devices? Chocolate-covered electric chairs? … So I was waxing eloquent to my kids about how we don’t have chocolate crosses and Kara leaned over and whispered “I got chocolate crosses this year.” So chocolate crosses: It’s not sinful, it’s just strange.
I would like to sing – Just once! – “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” the week after Easter.
When we hear the phrase ‘Pedal to the Metal’ ministry, we think, “I don’t have much under the hood”.
[On poor grades and boasting] No one can boast in their ‘F’. No one can say, “My ‘F’ is better than yours”
It’s kind of like when you go through a drive through and you order a 2 or something and they say, “Would you like me to supersize that for you?” Now the answer to that question, by the way, is “no”. The last thing we need is more salt and grease and sugar. But if God asks you, would you like paradise supersized, the answer is, “Oh yes, Supersize away!”
My favorite analogy for this is when I was growing up I watched the movies “Back to the Future” It think part two was my favorite. My favorite name for a villain in any movie is “Biff”. Remember him? Biff, he goes back to the future gets the sports almanac and then he can bet on all the games because he knows who’s gonna win, becomes very wealthy. I remember thinking as a kid, he would be a real idiot if he knew who was going to win and didn’t bet on that team . . . and then it dawned on me: we have the Almanac.
* For the record, 4 months later when the transition was completed, they took the word “Associate” off his title.
I’d sure be interested to hear your favorites!
Here are some other posts about Pastor’s Meyer and Piper:
I found this under the heading “Main Things” – in a document I wrote, dated 11/24/1998
Always do either what you should do or what you like doing. If possible, do things that are both, but never do things that are neither. . i.e. don’t do something you don’t enjoy just to avoid doing what you should do.
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who say “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who say ‘There are two kinds of people in the world,’ and those who don’t,” and those who don’t.
[I could have made this longer, but I was limited by punctuation]
Whenever I compliment someone, and they say, “I’ll take that as a compliment”, it makes me nervous.
One of the sons of my former pastor wrote a book about what it’s like to be a pastor’s kid. It’s a good book. Here’s my review.
Let’s first get the negatives out of the way –
1. It’s a bit repetitive. I would have liked to have had a chance to edit this book.
2. It’s not clear how representative this book is. Barnabas says right up front that research and statistics is not his forte and that he wouldn’t be providing numerical data. This is too bad, because I’d really be interested to know how universal these issues are with PKs.
Not too harsh, I trust?
Here are some positives:
1. It’s illustrative.
If you’ve ever wanted a good description, filled with anecdotes, of what it’s like to be a Pastor’s kid, here you have it. This is a book who’s existence makes the world better, for that reason alone.
2. It’s not all negative.
A major aspect of this book is “These are the hard things that PKs have to deal with”. And they are hard. But I was grateful for the last chapter, in which Barnabas lists for us some of the upsides of being a PK. It was refreshing.
And being a Bethlehem Baptist Church member, I was happy to see the word “Forward by John Piper” on the cover. Because I assumed (correctly) that this meant that this wasn’t going to be an angry book of harsh stories. About the worst thing he has to say about Pastor John is that he always drives the speed limit.
3. It’s a book I would recommend to many people for different reasons.
- For all people in churches who are going to be ministering to (or otherwise dealing with) pastor’s kids (for example, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders and other kid’s parents) – I encourage them to get this book for chapters two and three which lists out the unrealistic expectations that many have for pastor’s kids.
- For all pastor’s kids, I would recommend that they read … well all of it – but chapter four “Identity Crisis” is especially helpful, challenging and perhaps hard to read, but is ultimately uplifting.
- For all pastors, I would recommend they read chapters six and seven which explains how their kids need them – with ideas like “Laugh, play, be affectionate”, and “have hobbies”.
- For all dads who are trying to parent in a strong Christian environment, I recommend chapter five and six. Many of the ideas apply to all dads (and all parents). One of the ideas I found most intriguing is that we should apologize to our children with specific sins (i.e. don’t just admit, “I’m a sinful dad”). It’s good stuff.
- For all church going people, the book provides many thoughts on what we should and should not expect of pastors and (directly and indirectly) their kids.
4. It delves into the Gospel.
Barnabas asks the question – what does a PK need? His answer is Grace.
“It is the grace of God that allows anyone to make headway in the struggles to overcome sin. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables followers of Jesus to make good decisions in the face of temptations, and the spirit lives in anyone who acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, as the one and only means to get right with God. The ultimate grace was the sacrifice of the perfect, sinless Jesus for the sake of all humanity to give up His heavenly glory, live a human life and agonizingly die on the grotesque cross so that we would not have to face eternal punishment of dishonoring the perfect God.”
Barnabas Piper says that a PK needs grace from his parents, his need grace from the church, he needs to show grace towards his family and his church and he ultimately and most importantly needs the eternal grace that only God can give him.
This rings true. For each PK and for all of us.
… Or more accurately – Here are five motivations that are less than optimal if they are your primary reason for reading God’s Word.
1. Looking for ways that you are better than others.
The Apostle Paul has several lists of bad behaviors in his epistles. Any human can look at those lists and say, “Well, I don’t do that, or that, or that” and “But I know my neighbor Bill does that, and that and that”. If the outcome of this reading is, “Wow, I’m pretty good. No need to change!” then you’re not reading it as the Holy Spirit wants you to. And I’m pretty sure Paul would not be pleased either.
2. Looking for ammunition for your theological debate.
Theological correctness is important. Using God’s word to define and clarify your theology is important. But if you are continually using your time in the Word to look for proof that you are right, you are not being God focused, you’re being people-focused (the people, in this case, being your theological enemy).
3. Thinking reading the Bible will save you.
“Well, I read my chapter for the day. That’s what good Christians do. This means I’m acceptable in God’s eyes. Now on to real life.”
4. Looking for errors.
This has already been done. And if you consider the errors one by one, with an unhateful eye, you’ll see that these errors are based on and sourced by biases, fears and personal predilections. And a strong hope that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. I suggest you consider the idea that the Bible is true and ask yourself, what is the real reason you want the Bible to be negligible? And, what would you have to do if the Bible is really God’s word?
5. Trying to impress people.
“Well, I read my chapter for the day. If I keep it up for another three weeks, I can casually mention this in my small group, or to my Pastor, or on my blog.
Again, No. Generally speaking, “then they will like me” is a bad reason to do anything. And again, this is people-focused.
Now, make no mistake, reading the Bible for bad reasons is better than not reading it all. Here’s a rule of mine: “If it’s a good activity, don’t stop doing it because you’re afraid you’re doing it for wrong reasons.”*
So, please don’t stop reading the Bible every day (if you aren’t reading it every day, then you should start) because of your less-than-perfect motivations. A great deal of good has happened as a result of people reading the Bible for bad reasons.
But do, with the help of the Holy Spirit and through prayer, start reading the Bible for better reasons.
And what are the better reasons?
This fall, for the ninth time, I’ll be leading a Wednesday night class of kindergarteners and first graders, and it uses a curriculum that teaches kids about the Bible. The description of this curriculum begins this way: “God, who is the most valuable Being in all the universe, reveals Himself with clarity and authority through His Word.”
And one of the first lessons is this – the Most Important Person in each story in the Bible is God.
So do read the Bible to learn about -
2. His Gospel,
3. His will for you, and
5. What He says are the important eternal realities of the universe.
And while you shouldn’t read God’s word to attain salvation, you should read it because it’s His will for you to do so. It pleases God when you do His will.
And pleasing God is always a good motivation.
Nicholas Kristof Op Ed Columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote this for his column: She Gets No Respect: Sexism Persists, Even Among the Enlightened
Researchers find that female-named hurricanes kill about twice as many people as similar male-named hurricanes because some people underestimate them. Americans expect male hurricanes to be violent and deadly, but they mistake female hurricanes as dainty or wimpish and don’t take adequate precautions.
He continues -
Likewise, research subjects were more willing to evacuate to avoid Hurricane Victor than when it was Hurricane Victoria. The more masculine the name, the more respect the hurricane drew. The researchers estimated that changing the name of a hurricane from Charley to Eloise could nearly triple the death toll.
Women were as likely as men to disrespect female hurricanes.
He concludes -
This deep bias is as elusive as it is pernicious, but a start is to confront and discuss it. Perhaps hurricanes, by catching us out, can help us face our own chauvinism.
1. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a month the press tells us, “That study was bogus! There’s no real difference in response to hurricane names. The statistics were twisted.” But the columnist is writing as if this is all true, so, just to make it clear -
2. If I ever say to you, “I think you’re less likely to kill me than that other guy,” I’m not disrespecting you.
3. It seems like the people who die from a hurricane because of the hurricane’s name should be considered for the Darwin Award.
“Okay, it’s getting a little windy, Lyle, should we head inside?”
“Well dang, Cliff, her name is Cindy! Isn’t that the youngest Brady girl? How bad could she be?”
4. So Americans harbor an inner and unconscious belief that women are less destructive and less dangerous. I just checked – 90% of murderers in the US are male. If this is bias, is it a false bias? Is it chauvinism if it’s based on fact?
5. Obviously the solution here is to create a nationwide campaign to encourage women to be more violent and murderous, so that people will start respecting female hurricanes.
6. Obviously the solution is NOT to encourage men to be less violent and murderous, because then people would stop protecting themselves from male hurricanes. And that would be disrespectful.
I’ll admit, I sometimes listen to National Public Radio. I’ve considered it to be a good source for news and current events. Recently though, church friends have challenged this practice as unwise – citing NPR’s leftward slant. I’ve withstood this challenge, suggesting that I’d like to think that the slant isn’t that substantial.
I’ll further confess this: Last Sunday morning, after I dropped off two of my sons at church for an early worship rehearsal, and as I was heading back to get the rest of my family, I dialed up NPR. Just, you know, to see what was happening in the world.
The story that started up, even as I was leaving the church parking lot, was this interesting piece from their “Sunday Conversation” series – “A Christian Climate Scientist’s Mission To Convert Nonbelievers.”
It was an interview with an atmospheric scientist who’s “also a devout Christian”. She’s “spent the last few years trying to convince other Christians that climate change is real.”
She described two anti-climate change arguments she’s heard from Christians-
One of the biggest issues I often get asked is if God is in control, how could this happen? Or to put it another way, doesn’t the idea that humans could change climate threaten the idea of the sovereignty of God? And the answer to that is actually pretty simple. It’s free will. God gave us the brains to make good choices, and there’s consequences to the choices that we make. And that’s what climate change is. It’s a consequence to the fact that we have an industrialized society that depends on coal and oil and gas for many of our resources.
And another argument that you hear a lot in Christian circles is, well, if the world is going to end anyways, why bother? In fact, won’t this just hasten the end of the world? And in that case, we can actually look directly to the book of Thessalonians where Paul wrote to people very strongly. And the apostle said, don’t just quit your job and lay around waiting for Christ to return. Go get a job, work, support your family and care for the poor. That’s what we’re intended to do, not just sit around and say, ah, it’s going to end anyways.
Comments to NPR:
So, is it your goal to be seen as having a liberal slant? Because this is the kind of piece that will do it. And it’s not primarily the story – it’s what’s in the subtext of the story.
Unspoken, but clearly conveyed were these ideas –
1. Generally speaking, devout Christians don’t believe in climate change (or if you’d like – A good percentage of climate-change-deniers are devout Christians). Katherine is shown here as an exception, fighting against the rule.
2. Those who don’t believe in climate change* are wrong.
And the ingenious attribute of subtext is that, since the underlying ideas are inherently understood to be true, the story writers don’t feel the need to give evidence to show they are true. The truth of the subtext is assumed.
But thoughtful people on either side of the issue can see through what you’re doing. And many non-Christians would disagree with both of these premises.
I might add another telling subtext of the story:
3. Conservative devout Christians merely lack understanding of the real issues and should be ‘converted”, “convinced”, and told that “each of us already has the values in our hearts that we need to care about this issue”
That seems just a little condescending.
In any case, this story (at the very least) could accurately be used as evidence of a left leaning slant in NPR programming.
Comments to Climate Change Advocates:
I’ve seen arguments from Christians (and non Christians) who don’t believe in climate change and they don’t use religious reasons as their defense. They are skeptical for logical, scientific and political reasons and they use logical, scientific and political debate methods to refute the ideas behind climate change.
You should deal with those issues. That’s the more honest approach. Strawmen don’t become you.
But I would commend Mrs. Hayhoe’s method here. It’s apparent that her approach is non-vitriolic and non-combative. And she’s trying to find common ground with those she’s debating. This is wise.
Comments to Christians:
I think one of the lessons from this NPR story is this – while debating political issues, especially when dealing with non-Christians (but even sometimes when dealing with Christians), be very hesitant to use arguments based on religion. Because if you use poor logic based on your understanding of God, or if it can be made to look foolish, it sure can be used against you.
In this story, the only two arguments the interviewee refuted were the above religious examples she cited in the beginning.
1. My God wouldn’t let climate change happen.
2. If it’s God’s will to end the world this way, nothing we can do can stop him.
I find myself wondering if these were the two least thoughtful comments she’s received in the years she’s made these presentations, and perhaps that’s why she’s using them on national radio. Because they are both very easy to dispatch**, and she does a pretty good job of it, too (even citing Thessalonians in her rebuttal – impressive, but I think she’s misrepresenting Paul’s words here).
If you’re arguing with a theologian, it’s wise to use theological reasoning. But if you’re arguing with a scientist, be more hesitant to use a God-based argument. And if you do, make good and sure it’s biblically thought out – not based on your general ideas of what God is like.
And everyone should take a cue from this devout Christian/environmental scientist. Finding common ground with those you are debating is always a good first step.
* I had ‘global warming’ here, but I just noticed that they don’t have ‘global warming’ anywhere in the story, so I changed all of my references to it to ‘climate change’
** I sure hope these arguments weren’t from the same Christian, because as anyone can see who thinks about them for more than a half minute, they are contradictory to each other.
While I don’t think that Sarcasm is always to be avoided, it does have it’s pitfalls. But here’s one suggested guideline – if you think you’ll have to explain that you were being sarcastic, consider not doing it.
[Bethel Choir People, please let me know if I got any of the details wrong]
In 1989, June 4th was a Sunday. So I went to church, along with the entire Bethel Choir. We were on Europe tour and June 4th was our last day in Moscow – in what was then the USSR.
While we had been in Moscow, we had been on outings to the Moscow Circus, the Kremlin and more than a few other places. On all of these other trips, our Russian tour guide, Nicholas, had gotten us two buses. For our trip to the church, we were only provided one. We were pretty sure that they didn’t want us to go a church and maybe they felt that having only one bus would deter our whole choir from going. But we all crammed on that one small bus. No big deal.
At the church, they greeted us warmly. They let us sing. They said we sounded like angels.
This is what I put in my journal: “We sang them four songs, including the spiritual [Not sure what this was. “Go tell it”?] to a full house of happy Christians. We sang with them “Crown Him [with many crowns]” and afterwards they hugged and kissed us. Nicholas then showed us quickly back on the bus.”
We were staying at the Hotel Ukraine. While in the rooms there, my friend Ace would say things like, “The black cat wants his crayons back.” You know, just in case the KGB was listening.
After lunch, Ace wanted to go on a tourist hunt for a Russian T-shirt. So the two of us walked towards the center of the city. And we walked and walked. We had no luck.
We walked all the way to the Kremlin (which if I have it correct on Google Maps is more than two miles).
If I knew then what I know now (after our trip to adopt our daughter Anna), we could have avoided the wandering and just headed to Arbat street. But I didn’t.
I noted in my journal that I spent a dollar to buy a Pepsi at the Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors.
In any case, by now we had been out for hours and Ace didn’t want to walk back. So we started looking for a Taxi. We found ourselves at the front door of a large hotel, and there were several taxi drivers. We asked one of them how much it would cost to get a ride back to our hotel. He told us twenty rubles, which at the rate we were supposed to use, would have been about forty dollars. This wasn’t acceptable to Ace, who then countered, “No, no. How about five American dollars,” holding up his hand to stress the number five. The taxi driver was very quick to take his offer.
Ace graciously paid for the ride and on the way he asked the driver if he knew where we could get any t-shirts. He responded, “Hotel Ukraeena?” Apparently he spoke very little English.
We made it back to the hotel and the rest of the choir. My journal states that after supper some of us threw paper airplanes out the window. Really?
And then we got on two buses and were driven to the train station, where we rode overnight to Ukraine. Apparently I talked with Kris B. and Tonia R. and we recited Frost poetry: “And that has made all the difference!”*
I also talked with Debbie, the girl to whom it would take more than five more years to marry.
All of that happened on one day – June 4th, 1989.
That Russian house of worship was the furthest church (from my home in Minnesota) that I’ve ever attended. A few days earlier, in St. Petersburg (sorry, Leningrad) the Russian host at our more secular concert stated to the audience, “It’s not the words that they sing that is important; it’s that they sing them so well.”
But in that gathering of Christians in Moscow, it was encouraging and a blessing to be with a group of people who were more like-minded. And when we were singing “Crown Him” together, it certainly didn’t matter that we were worshiping Jesus in two different languages.
* Trivia- Which poem is this?
If you want to read another 25 years ago Bethel Choir related story, here you go.