Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stuff Happens......Even in Church

When you reach your golden years, you have a lot of idle time to sit and reflect on some of the things that happened to you.  Here is one of the things that is constantly on my mind. Some of the players in this drama have now passed on and if anybody recognizes himself or herself so be it. I was a member and attended a church for over 25 years and loved the folks that I met there and enjoyed the services. After all those years a bizarre thing happened.

It was like a hem that starts to unravel. At first it’s a small rip so you kind of ignore it and finally it has come completely out. That is the way I describe what happened to me. A Sunday school teacher told the class that he had the gift of discernment. It was evident that he thought the gift of discernment meant that he knew whether a person was truly born again and saved. One day in class he asked us to bow our heads so he could pray for somebody in the class that wasn’t truly born again. I guess his ‘Gift’ had kicked in. I instantly knew I was the poor lost soul he was praying for.

Now this is the point that you probably think I must have been living a terrible life of sin to feel that guilty, but I just couldn’t help but think I was the target. I was 72 years old and widowed and lived alone and never went any place except the church, doctor and grocery store. Maybe not in that order, but I really was not into any sin that I was aware of. Or maybe everybody in the class felt the exact same way I felt. It sure had its aftermath on me.

This was the first rip in the hem, I was not positive I was the poor lost soul, so I couldn’t ask him why he thought I was lost.  His wife was the teacher of the weekly bible study that I faithfully attended, and it was soon apparent to me that he had shared his, pearls of wisdom, with her. She was always calling on me to pray the beginning prayer or the ending prayer, and other questions about the lesson. She had never done that before. It was so obvious that she was testing me to determine if she agreed with him. (I think) Still I ignored the rip in the hem. What if I’m wrong. I better just let it go.

One Sunday morning when I went to church, I was so obviously ignored by everybody I just sat in the pew with my mouth hanging open during the entire service. What is going on? I kept asking myself. The minister always came by before the service started and shook hands and greeted everybody. This time he shook my hand while talking to the person next to me. Did his wife and secretary and that click stopped coming by my area so they wouldn’t have to speak to me? The elderly lady that sat in front of me turned her head when I spoke to her. I always loved that old lady. How had I offended her.

The weeks went by and I kept going. Church was getting fascinating now and I had to go to see what the next chapter would bring.
Call me paranoid or whatever you think is suitable, but I honestly think the Sunday school teacher took the issue of my salvation to the Pastor. He didn’t know how to deal with it himself so he decided it was a problem for the Pastor. The Pastor thought it would be an awkward thing to bring up with me, so he tells the Sunday school teacher his pathetic excuse for not speaking to me about my lost state of affairs.  He told the Sunday school teacher that I was beyond saving and they should not even attempt to get me saved.

 He was so pleased with his version of what was wrong with me, he decided it would make a good, message for one of the services.  
Maybe it went something like this and I could be wrong so maybe I should just drop it.
I don’t believe he used my name but described me well enough that everybody in the place had no doubt who he was referring to. Of course this happened in one of those Wednesday night services that I never attend.  Could this be what he said? The lady that sits on the end of the fourth row is one of those the bible speaks of as having a reprobate mind and we should not even give her the time of day.
She never volunteers for anything, she only keeps a seat warm on Sunday morning.
She doesn’t attend Sunday night or Wednesday night services. She doesn’t pay her tithe. She is the one the bible refers to in Titus 1:16. “For we shall know them by their works”.

What the chapter refers to is mainly false teachers, and not some old lady that sits in a pew on Sunday morning. “For we shall know them by their works”. I don't know if he used this verse, but I have heard others on TV that seem to think this means you have to show, by a certain manner, proof of your salvation such as if you donate more money to their cause God will be more pleased with you and bless you more.

Jesus dying for your sins is enough already. By their ‘works’ means you still living by the old law (trying to earn your way) and not trusting in  Jesus crucifixion.  It most certainly does not mean, by their works, you can tell if a person is truly born again and saved.

In some ways he was right. I only attended the Sunday morning service and I did not volunteer for everything that came down the pike. In my younger years I helped in the kitchen and many other things, but I am 72 and my back hurts. I am now 82 and not a single day goes by that I do not remember and think about it.
It continued and the Sunday school teacher and his wife left the church shortly after. I started going to a new Sunday school class with a new teacher, and he cut me down every time I opened my mouth so I soon learned to not open it. The pastor was still shaking my hand while talking to the next person.
 Almost everybody in the Sunday School Class ignored me, like I was invisible. It was not my imagination. This went on for a couple more weeks.  One time a man behind me during the greeting session told me that he only sees me on Sunday morning. I guess if he wants to see me more often, he needs to find out where I live and visit me.

For the first time since I had been attending the church I was being asked every week if I would volunteer for something. Were they testing me? Even the Sunday school class decided we would clean up the parking area and pull up the weeds around the flowerbeds and etc. I decided I wouldn’t miss that weed-pulling affair if it killed me. Sure enough we are pulling the weeds one Saturday morning and here comes the Pastor cruising in and jumps out of his car and looks around to see who is there. He didn’t pull a single weed and left after a few minutes.

I was asked if I would volunteer with the money counting on Monday mornings. Sure, I can sit down while I count money. Then I got an earful about who tithes and who doesn’t and they will need to account to God for that some day.  I had stopped paying a tithe because of my puny little income. I gave to the church what I felt I could afford.  It was either pay the tithe or let one of the bills get behind. I know some will say that I need to have enough faith that God will take care of my expenses if I pay the tithe. I say we also need to use some common sense.

The pastor left the church rather abruptly and I have never learned the reason for his rapid departure. Many people changed churches or moved out of the area. Some of the folks remained friendly to me and especially one man who was also a minister and his wife were always very friendly and never treated me any differently than they ever had. Nobody will ever know how much I appreciated that.

They got a new Pastor and he was very cordial to me and looked at me while shaking my hand. The church began to go down hill and they finally sold it and built a new one farther away and it took four or five years to get the new church built, in the meantime they held the service in a funeral home. To me it was like the church died and they were holding a funeral service for it.
When they moved to the funeral home for the service I stopped attending. One of my friends said I should refer to it as a Chapel.
I cannot bring myself to attend a church of any kind since that event. I even have problems listening to TV ministers. I read my bible and pray every day. I have no doubts about my salvation and I have no doubts about yours.