Good News and Better News… December 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Somewhere along the line, we have convinced ourselves that church is supposed to be a service–a program put together with songs, testimonies and a sermon, where those in attendance can worship God.

There is no Biblical basis for this kind of thrown-together event. It is a by-product of Catholicism, which borrowed many of its ideas from the Roman hierarchy or the other religions of ancient times, which were ceremonially based.

In pursuing this piety, we have removed two of the basic powerful principles that provide the righteous realization for coming together: including and using.

Yes–church is supposed to include me and you, and find ways for us to discover our usefulness. When you remove a sense of inclusion and the possibility of a person being useful, the motivation for merely gathering in order to revere is not enough to keep the pews filled.

It was the heart of the Master to include people and then make them useful–or maybe not make them useful–just find out where they were useful.

Whether a prostitute or demon-possessed man, Jesus surrounded them with a sense of inclusion and then put in place a purpose and use for their presence.

So a woman at the well became his advertising agent for a revival.

A man who had been possessed by a thousand demons became his public spokesman for a whole region.

And Mary of Magdala, who herself was possessed by seven demons, became one of his right-hand people.

We have lost the power of inclusion. Matter of fact, the church is notorious for disincluding certain groups of the community because of their wickedness or weakness.

So when you walk in the door, you’re handed a program–or not, for those churches which think they are free-wheeling and fancy-free–and you listen to an eight- or nine-piece praise band, which has over-practiced facial expressions while under performing musically, and stare at a screen to sing songs of repetition, waiting for the hour to creep by.

“Not my church!” you say.

But the reality is, just because you have grown accustomed to your surroundings and are accepted within the cave of understanding does not mean a stranger could come in and access the same gentleness.

Here is our new truth:

How big is your congregation? Eight billion and growing, because we include the whole world. But every week we have about two hundred people who attend who are so useful we couldn’t do without them.

Now, that’s church.

Until we abandon a fear of God which has us stuck at the beginning of wisdom, unable to progress, we will gradually see people trickle away because they don’t feel included, and they certainly do not sense they are useful.

The good news is, “whosoever will may come.”

The better news is, we sure hope you show up, because we could sure use you.

 

 

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 42) Rest Stop … February 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

2.3 miles east of Garsonville, on an old country road, was an abandoned roadside rest–long forgotten and unattended, with a broken picnic table, a dry pump and an eroded sign which had once explained the origins.

Over the past two months, every single week, Reverend Meningsbee made his way to that spot before attending church, to take ten or fifteen minutes, just to “get decent.”

Getting decent meant freeing himself of all the hardships, prejudice, bruised ego, disappointments and frustrations of the week, lest he arrive in front of the congregation and pour out his misgivings instead of sharing a parcel of hope.

It had been a strange week.

On top of languishing in memories of his beloved Doris, he also discovered that Jesse, Marty and Hector McDougal were moving from town. They had become the touchstone–the stopping off place–for all the publicity and turmoil that had risen up because of the little boy’s amazing healing.

The family had received notice from a mega church in Idaho which had been spreading its spiritual wings into making movies, and the three were invited to come and live free of charge for a year while the screenwriters, actors and production team shot a film entitled, “Hector’s Baptism.”

They were so excited.

They even had a copy of the screenplay, which Meningsbee perused, quickly realizing that the writers had taken some creative license.

Meningsbee felt sad.

He wasn’t sure it was the right thing for the family–but it’s hard to argue with a year’s worth of free room and board. So he kissed them all on the cheek, prayed for them and two days later they were gone.

That departure was followed by the information that Patrick Swanson, whose congregation had been involved in some sort of wife-swapping scandal, was also leaving and stopped off at Meningsbee’s house to say goodbye.

He and his wife were off to Utah, to a marriage clinic, to restore their vows and commitments.

Patrick had become a Mormon. He looked much different–fresh haircut, crisp white shirt and a sweater vest instead of jeans, shaggy locks and a t-shirt. He was, shall we say, very appropriate.

When Meningsbee reached to give him a hug, Patrick instead took his hand and offered a warning. “Beware the sins of the flesh, my friend. I think you teeter on too much secular input in your ministry, and therefore are robbing your congregation of the full impact of the whole Bible for the whole man.”

Meningsbee felt a flame of anger ignite in his gut but he realized that Patrick would soon be gone, and his advice with him.

Meningsbee was in the midst of these thoughts and many others when a car rolled up next to him.

It was Sammy Collins.

He got out of his car and tapped on the passenger window of Meningsbee’s vehicle, requesting permission to enter. Meningsbee popped his locks and Sammy scooted in, shut the door and took a deep breath.

“Let me get right to it. I’ve been doing a lot of praying. I know we haven’t always agreed, but I believe I’m supposed to come and be your assistant minister.”

He paused. Meningsbee was speechless.

Sammy jumped in. “Well, that’s it. What do you think?”

“How did you know I would be here?” asked Meningsbee.

“I followed you,” said Sammy with a smile. “You didn’t even know, did you?”

“Nope,” said Meningsbee quietly.

Sammy turned sideways in his seat, filled with energy. “So what do you think, Pastor? You sure could use the help.”

“You see, Sammy, the kind of help I need wouldn’t work because it’s inside me. I couldn’t get you in there. Or maybe I wouldn’t want you in there. Or maybe, it just seems to me, that if I needed an assistant minister, God would tell me before he told the assistant minister.”

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Sammy with a twinkle.

“Yeah, but usually not hyper-weird,” replied Meningsbee.

Sammy, undaunted by the rebuke and rejection, opened the car door and said, “Think it over. You’re never gonna find anyone quite like me.”

Meningsbee just nodded, holding his tongue over a variety of responses that immediatly popped into his brain.

Sammy jogged to his car, got in and took off. Meningsbee, fully disturbed and interrupted, decided to head off to church.

He wondered what he would find there. He had to admit to himself that his message last week about the rich young ruler and how the congregation needed to decide if they were going to keep the revival alive or go back to their old ways, was pretty strong. Matter of fact, he had even used the word “damn” right in the middle of the pews, flowers and pulpit furniture.

Arriving at the church, there was a hum in the room. No–a real hum. The organist was playing the prelude and the congregation, uncharacteristically, was humming along with the familiar tune.

There were two apple pies sitting on the fellowship table which were normally not present for coffee time.

Deacon Smitters shook Meningsbee’s hand and held it a little longer than normal.

The song service was more boisterous, the testimonies enlightened and the “amens” aplenty.

No one said a word about the previous week’s service nor whether they were offended, challenged or informed. They just did what people in Garsonville do. They took it all in, let it rattle around for a couple of days, and decided what their best path might be.

There’s a lot to be said for that.

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 5) Late … May 29th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2949)

Reverend Meningsbee

Sunday morning, and Meningsbee woke up late.

He wanted to blame his alarm clock, but since he was fully aware that he was the master of all of its decisions, he scurried along, skipping two of his pre-shower rituals.

He scooted into his car, started it and zoomed toward the church at what he hoped was a reasonable speed. He was thinking about what he wanted to share.

The Gospel of Mark. Most certainly.

It had been an interesting week.

After the breakthrough, with Betty and Clarice being reconciled, there was a sweet buzz of contentment among those who were present, but simultaneously, there were around twenty-five former members who had begun meeting in the banquet hall of the nearby Holiday Inn Express. They were stirring a flurry of frustration through the town.

Their contention? Meningsbee had “stolen their church.”

He understood their perspective. Yet there was a push in his spirit to continue the experiment–to find the real meaning of gathering together instead of marching in time to the drone of repetitive hymns.

Arriving, he ran to the door of the church, and then paused. He could hear the sounds of conversation. It was not the usual pre-church verbal exchanges, but instead, purposeful–what sounded like meaningful, prayerful tones.

So Meningsbee chose to enter quietly and climb the stairs to the balcony, where he could view the proceedings.

He had noticed coming in that there were a few more cars in the parking lot, and was delighted to see, when he looked down from his perch, that there were four visitors and a few of the original congregation who had returned.

But most enlightening was the fact that the three chairs he had placed in the front on Saturday night were filled with people, surrounded by other folks who were sharing and praying for one another.

On the seventh row was a young family who Deacon Smitters had befriended, and was quietly but feverishly entertaining with one of his stories.

It was a reverent scene, in the sense of the true meaning of reverence–full of humanity, compassion, tenderness and just a bit of the childlike freedom that was so often absent from the normal Sunday morning drill.

Reverend Meningsbee wanted to just hang out in the balcony and watch. He knew that as soon as he entered, the holy spell would be broken and they would turn to him to find order.

Finally he decided that it was not good for him to stay away for the whole time. He climbed down the stairs and came into the church as the gathering fell silent.

He turned slowly and addressed them.

“I overslept. But I have been here for fifteen minutes, just watching all of you. It is so beautiful for you to treat each other so beautifully. I know that’s not a good sentence, but it’s what I feel. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for loving each other.”

All at once, a hand went up. It was Clarice, from last week’s reconciliation.

“Hello, Pastor. I just wanted to let you know that after Betty and I mended our fences, I got inspired to contact my son in Lincoln, who ran away from home a couple of years ago because he was mad at me for being such a–can I say ‘bitch’ in the church?”

Meningsbee laughed. “You just did.”

Clarice continued. “Anyway, I invited Michael home, we made peace, and I told him to come here with me today to seal the deal.”

The congregation burst into applause without being coaxed. It was spontaneous and it was electrifying.

One after another, there were testimonies about those who came and sat in the chair to receive God’s grace through the kindness of God’s people.

The good Reverend just stood back and shut up. There was a small part of him that felt useless, but most of him felt he had discovered his true use.

Lead the sheep to the green pastures, and then let them eat.

It came time for the end of the service, and Meningsbee wasn’t sure what to do.

Betty stood to her feet and said, “Did you know that Clarice’s son, Michael, plays a mean piano and can really sing?”

Michael feigned a bit of embarrassment, but also exuded a willingness to display his talent. So Meningsbee pointed to the piano, and Michael slowly rose to his feet, walked over, sat down and played and sang “Let It Be” by the Beatles.

It was an inspiring conclusion to the morning.

Meningsbee listened to the song very carefully.

“Let It Be.”

What good advice.

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