as I have a tiny space of online time this week, I am uploading a pre-written post.

Today, he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a tree. It is Holy Friday for us crazy calendar orthodox.
Blessed Feast!

Following is an explanation of the man I met recently and how he gave me hope, but I think it is still incomplete.

Blog Post

I met a man the other day who helped me be even more grateful for my past in the charismatic side of the protestant church.
I grew up going to a non denominational church, I didn’t even know denominations existed until my late teens. I thought catholics weren’t Christians, and greek orthodox? I had sort of heard of its existence, but never put it in the category of church.
Anyways. I started attending a vineyard church by myself, without my parents, that is, when I was sixteen, with my closest oldest friend Tim Stewart at the church where his Dad was the pastor. I loved it. The people were real, they were honest, the worship was laid back and fun, but also honest. Graham Ord led worship and I babysat his kids. It was glorious. I remember a Sunday morning, me and about four other guys were all dancing up at the front, we ended up doing a sort of can-can line to a song called “walk in the light” it was awesome. We were all shout-singing and dancing together because God was so great and we were so happy to be together with God. I loved dancing in church. I think if I could trust a church like that again, I would enjoy dancing like that again.
I don’t know what changed it, if it was me, or the church.
I started attending TWU when I was 19, just after I had finished a year of being on the planning committee for the evening service at the church. I had even preached one evening. A 19 year old, uneducated (in any sense of the word) boy, standing in front of a congregation of Christians, explaining and interpreting the bible. Hoo boy. I am sure that God can use anyone and that I probably said something somewhere in there that was inspiring or helpful to someone, but goodness. I like when the preacher is educated at the very least in theology, if not the nature of interpretation. Anyways. That is an aside. I didn’t have any clue about anything back then, and I know more now, but I also know that there is so much more to know now, so I still now next to nothing.
So I went to this vineyard church and then I started TWU. I took a few intro to biblical studies classes in my first few years, but I was also involved in Street Evangelism. I grew so much during those years, thinking constantly about what it meant to be a true Christian.
Did I have to live on the street and give all I had to the poor to show them that I really understood what it was like to live their life? No. even if I tried, I wouldn’t understand in that way, and so many people were willing to work with the street people, that I should be thankful for the gift of education and put it to good use. Not everyone gets to go to university, let alone TWU. A good friend’s dad told me that in a random but not so random talk on the phone. One of those moments I don’t like to admit that felt and still feels ‘providential’. You’ll see why I am so against this particular nebulous part of Christendom in a bit. Which is also why I love orthodoxy so much. Of course, it will be an imperfect story, but it’s a story.
So I was at TWU, learning about things. About interpretation, and about the bible, and about ministry. I was directly involved with poor people on the street, every Friday night. We would spend two hours with the folks on the downtown east side. I volunteered in high school as well, with the soup wagons for the street kids on Granville. I guess Uni had me in the tougher part of town. But it wasn’t dangerous if you walked strongly. Posture says so much. We gave out hot chocolate as an excuse to start conversations with people and I guess we were supposed to share the good news of Christianity with them. Which is good news. And we did. I remember talking to a guy we’ll call J, and he was the lookout for the dealers at oppenheimer park. He would whistle when the cops came by and the dealers would scatter. Anyways. The conversation went like this between him and the girl I was walking around with. “So…how’s it going?” “oh, crappy, my daughter lives in north van, and I can’t get over there to get my sailboat because my leg is all infected” (his leg had open sores due to cancer or one of the other 5 or so terminal illnesses he later listed off as having, it was hard to not stare and also hard to look at)
Girl then says “that’s too bad, have you heard of Jesus Christ?” J replies “yeah, my mom used to pray the rosary at the foot of my bed, I wanted to kill her for it”
And he lived the kind of life where language like that didn’t seem like hyperbole. Anyways. That was a huge rabbit trail, except it somehow belongs.
Back to church. I was learning that life is more complicated than I thought. Evangelism isn’t so cut and dry, and maybe just using words to tell people about Jesus wasn’t going to be enough. This, I am discovering as I am writing, was the beginning of my need to reconcile form and content.
At church, the prayer of Jabez was making people crazy for bad theology and lots of money. The church began to recite a givers confession. So many problems with that theology. First, it makes the primary identity of the person ‘a giver’. Second, the only creed being recited is about how “I am giving you money, God, so I trust that you will give some back”. Third, on the envelope, they had a little paragraph that had a bible verse on it, and another sentence that was not from the bible, but a made up phrase about God giving us money. It was all in the same font and format as the bible verse.
The form implied that the content was all from the same place, the bible. I was pretty upset. But then, they were bringing speakers in to talk at the church about topics like “the third heaven. Pat Cocking, a prophet who changed her name legally a few times due to direct instructions from God came and taught that when St. Paul talks about ‘The Third Heaven’ that it is something akin to Christian Transcendental Meditation, though she wasn’t using that language. If she had, I would have (at this point in my life) been a little less likely to call her a charlatan. The Third Heaven is understood by most interpreters to mean the place where God dwells. The first heaven being the air we breathe, and the second one is the stars ( I think ) She told us we could go there by mental excercises.
Now I know that spiritual discipline and gifts from God can amount to amazing things that are rarely seen or heard, but I had a hard time with her and I didn’t know why.
Later, a person came from the arctic circle who had been a part of a revival of some sort. A blowing sound that couldn’t be explained was recorded at a prayer meeting on an audio system. This was interpreted as the Holy Spirit. I sound doubtful because I am. The lady came to our church, preached a contentless sermon and then started shouting prayers and trying to push people over so they would have a spiritual experience. I was so mad. It still makes me mad. The language they use all the time is something about ‘Entering the Prophetic’ but I think what they were doing was psychological and emotional manipulation, but even they didn’t know it. I know it is an intensely arrogant thing to make a judgment like that, but I have spoken to the leadership of the church about it, and their response convinced me. When I confronted them about the health and wealth doctrine, they told me that my interpretive framework was incorrect.
All this leads to the protestant man I met recently who is a conflict management expert who consults with different churches in the lower mainland to help them resolve conflicts. The church I went to when I was a teenager split and then died. Why did it split? Because God spoke to two different parties and gave two different directions for the church and neither group was willing to capitulate.
So. I am thankful for my current church family because there is a decided lack of God Speaking directly to church leaders for the sake of direction. The church calendar decides what the sermon will be, what color the vestments will be, and which saints will be commemorated. Prophetic-oriented churches bother me. But honestly, that is my problem, and it is not anymore.
When I rail about my past, I try to be clear that I love where I came from. My Finnish Pentecostal Church Camp, my Brethren Bible Fly Fishing Camp, I love my dispensationalist roots. I love that I know the bible like I do.
If ever I talk about orthodoxy being the fullness of the church, I mean that in a purely historical sense, in that it hasn’t changed (Doctrinally) since the 7 ecumenical councils. Practice has changed (slowly) but its identity hasn’t really.
All that said, I don’t think that orthodoxy is the only way to God, I don’t think it is for everyone. I surely used to think so, but I know that a lot of people find deep connections to God outside of the walls of the Orthodox Church. And I am glad for that.

I had a great visit with my sister and brother in law. They are expecting a baby in the fall, and I am proud of how my brother in law is thinking very maturely. They go to a church that is similar to the ones I just described, but I see God in their eyes and their hearts. Just like Tim and Bethany. I couldn’t go regularly to church with them, and they with us, but they have a deep commitment and love for God that is evident in their speech and their actions. They are spending their lives on water for poor people.

I love my church, but I love all of the church in its confusion and division. We can’t all be the pinkie finger, or the blood vessels, or the hair. We all have our roles and we all find our home in a place we can call home, and that is good. The man I met the other day gave me so much hope for those who are happy in a church that engages in prophetic activities, whatever that means. I used to have no time for that, and think that anyone who prayed like that was____misguided? But this guy had a good head on his shoulders and kind of put me in my place. It was good.

By the way, I think poverty in North America is a joke compared to poverty overseas. Mostly (aside from mental illness) we enable poverty here. That doesn’t mean we ignore the poor. We are having some homeless folks come to our church for Paschal Vespers apparently.


elizabeth said...

yeah... it is a process all of this...

I am also so glad I am Orthodox, but know it is important to see Christ in others regardless of church walls... (now if I could learn to see better in this regard overall, that would be good!).

Blessed Pascha to you and famiily!!

Callie said...

Well, Dave... I just wanted to comment, but really have nothing to say. Your post was very interesting and has given me some insight into your background that I didn't know. Glad you're back from lent!