I was still a little upset yesterday morning so I decided to wait before posting this story. Wouldn't want to be too quick to speak (James 1:19). This past Sunday I witnessed something very disturbing and, dare I say, blasphemous. And it occurred in church. That's right . . . IN church!
Blasphemy is defined as . . . n. An indignity offered to God by words or writing; reproachful, contemptuous or irreverent words uttered impiously against Jehovah.
I heard some words and read some writing that broke my heart, not to mention a few of the Ten Commandments. I was offended by how the God I worship was portrayed. I became a bit angry, but mostly incredibly disgusted that God's Words were being twisted and misused. I think that qualifies as blasphemy, at least in MY book. You be the judge.
My wife grew up attending this very small Methodist church in Milwaukee. I love small churches. Everybody knows everyone else. They support each other in love. They are a part of each others lives. They pray for one another and those prayers carry weight because they are usually praying for someone they really know and love. This church was no different.
I was raised in a Methodist church. My grandparents were Methodists in Michigan. My parents were members of a Methodist church in Iowa. I got my first Bible from a Methodist church. My wife and I were married in a Methodist church by two Methodist pastors one very hot summer day a long time ago . . . coming up on 36 years now. There is a lot of love in that small Methodist church in Milwaukee. But recently something has changed. What changed was the greater Methodist church itself and their policies. So what happened?
Well, going into this Sunday's Mothers Day service I already knew a few things about the changes in the Methodist church in recent years. From what I have observed at this small church in Milwaukee, Methodist churches have just as many female pastors as they do male pastors. From watching the news, I also have come to know that Methodist churches are "gay affirming" churches. That means the Methodist church condones sexual sin. Somehow that seems wrong to me. It's not good to anger God from what I read in the Bible. Bad things begin to happen . . . kind of like now.
The Methodist church of today has become what is known today as "progressive." No longer is the world "liberal" used these days. Today it's "progressive." In my opinion, "progressives" in the church have been anything BUT progressive. And although I heard the name of Jesus on Sunday, I began to wonder just who this Jesus was they were talking about. He's certainly was not the one I have read about in the Bible.
After I sat down in the pew I started going through the bulletin. That's Standard Operating Procedure for me. Gotta find out what's going on! The first thing I noticed was a portion of the service labeled "A Time for Stillness and Centering." Uh-oh. Google "Centering Prayer" sometime and read all about the dangers of THAT practice.
Everything else on the front page of the bulletin looked normal. Then I turned the page and arrived at the Prayer of Confession. Oh my goodness. It began like this . . .
"O Beloved Mother-Father God, . . ."
Mother??? What about "Our FATHER, who art in heaven? Now we're praying to MOTHER God? Continue with the rest of the prayer . . .
". . . help us today to recognize that true wisdom begins when we accept this world, each other, and our selves as we truly are and not just as we might wish us to be."
Really? "True wisdom begins when we accept this world?" Has anybody in the Methodist church read Romans 12:2 lately?
"2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2 (ESV)
This prayer really got me upset and . . . the service hadn't even started yet!!
We sang an opening hymn - number 2236 - "Gather Us In." The hymn was found in the second of three hymnals they had there. That's a lot of hymns - over 3,000 of them! Gotta have variety I guess. Anyway, the last line of verse one went like this. "we shall arise at the sound of our name." OUR name? I pray that was just a typo. I think it was supposed to be YOUR name. Freudian? Mmm . . . Let's move on.
Then came the "Words of Welcome" and Carol, the pastor, came out with these welcoming words, "Today there is no right or wrong, you are among friends." No right or wrong? Cool! That sounds very welcoming. It is also very wrong. There is ALWAYS right and wrong and this service was beginning to lean more towards the WRONG side, not to mention the left.
There was a brief children's message when Carol sat down with some kids up front and told a story about when Jesus "left us." You remember, the story of the crucifixion. Carol needs to read Deuteronomy 31:6 for some truth in story telling. Tell it like it is! People are murdered every day in Milwaukee. These kids see it on the news, or worse yet, in real life. They don't need to be protected from the truth. Jesus was beaten, whipped, spat upon, crucified, died and was buried. Although Jesus ascended to heaven, He never "left us." Jesus promised us he would NEVER "leave us."
"6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Deuteronomy 31:6
. . . . sigh. There were a few other things that bothered me - The Message Bible being used for scripture (The Message is one man's interpretation. It is NOT a translation). Words like "inclusion" and "acceptance" were used. Never did I hear the word "sin" during the service.
Another thing . . . I had noticed the bread and wine goblet on a table up front when I came in. It looked like we were going to take communion. That was fine . . . up until the point where I decided this pastor was preaching about some other god than the one I always worship. And apparently, soon, I was going to be expected to take communion to this god of theirs. I began to pray, "God, I don't think I can do this. They are preaching a gospel different from yours. God what should I do? This doesn't feel right, God."
My friends, I am 60 years old and I have always enjoyed the privilege of taking the elements of communion. The bread and the wine represent my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died for me on the cross. It is always an honor to participate. However, this past Sunday, I took a pass. When the nice lady offered the bread to me I looked her in the eyes and said, "No, thank you." and I began to pray. I prayed to the point of shedding tears, tears for this once wonderful little church.
My wife's family goes to that church. I am familiar with many of the names and the faces in the pews. However, I will never be attending there again. Not unless somethings get changed. That is a VERY sad thing. I truly fear for them. We need to pray for their church and for their pastor and for the Methodist church in general. We must lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer, wherever sheep are being led astray in this world.
But there is hope. All is not darkness. There is still an opportunity for repentance and for forgiveness. I hope and pray this pastor either repents or is removed from the pulpit. Something has to change. And there is ALWAYS hope . . .
"14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14
One final story before I close. After we got back from church, I was preparing the grill in the back yard for a family cookout. My father-in-law came outside and asked me a question. "So, what is your opinion of our pastor?"
"Honestly?" I asked. I then proceeded to tell him everything I just told you. At the end of my little speech, which was probably a lot longer than he was expecting, he asked, "So, what do you think we should do?"
"Well," I said, "I'd start looking for a new pastor . . . tomorrow." Sadly, their small church must "accept" whoever their bishop sends them. But God can do great things if they would only ask. There is ALWAYS hope.
There is only one "truth" and that truth does not come from man. It does not come from a denomination. It comes from God. It is revealed to us in His written Word. God's Holy Spirit convicts us when something "doesn't feel right" and I was feeling MAJORLY convicted on Sunday. We should listen to God's Holy Spirit when He leads us. We should listen to God's son, Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. And we should listen to OUR FATHER, God, who is never wrong and He always, ALWAYS speaks the truth.
"31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - John 8:32