Charity Worships with the Presbyterians
January 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
In Minnesota, we have a very technical term used to describe those who live in towns that hug the Interstate 494 belt around the southern and western side of the Twin Cities: they are called “cake-eaters.” It is a term used to denote the particular kind of affluence one might see in the area: the kind where the folks, uh, eat a lot of really nice cake. Like the kind with little fondant flowers, maybe. (For more context, please reference this film featuring Emilio Estevez in his prime, and a very young, very adorbs Joshua Jackson.)
On Saturday night, as I rushed to one such affluent suburb to hear Scot McKnight speak at a Presbyterian church, I not only had to resist a judgmental snicker at the expense of the cake-eating horde I was about to meet, but I also had to resist dwelling on a different, unexpected feeling of prejudice.
It was something about the Presbyterians—a latent sense of superiority was coming to the surface, rooted perhaps in some lessons from my youth group days, when we were taught that our devotion to rigorous evangelical orthodoxy and charismatic holiness was tantamount to “The Way,” the only way.
I pulled into the church parking lot five minutes late and sat still for a moment. My little car had been fairly bullied by treacherous breezes the entire way down to Edina, and as mean whirlwinds of snow twisted across the highway in front of me, I had begun to wonder if God weren’t trying to tell me something inscrutable again.
I walked into the sanctuary towards the end of worship, as per my usual habit, and settled in to find—the Presbyterians did everything pretty much the same way as any other big church I’ve attended. They have their Dave Ramsay seminars, their saccharin children’s sermons, their older folks who don’t turn off their cell phones. Sure, the architecture of the building was over-the-top gorgeous, and all the men were wearing very nicely fitted sweaters, and everyone generally smelled better, I think, than people do in other places. But for the most part, it all felt pretty familiar.
This wasn’t wholly conscious, but I was expecting things to be different. I was expecting something more restrained, milquetoast, Gospel-mitigating. I mean, there weren’t people falling out in the aisles or anything, but there was some soul stuff happening, some Jesus-talk, and I was surprised (and disappointed) with myself for not expecting it. So here, at the beginning of my church project, I find that I am dealing with a sense of my own religious superiority that I hadn’t known was there.
A word about the actual service: I was moved and challenged by Scot McKnight’s sermon, where he described “The Jesus Creed” and encouraged those in attendance to incorporate the creed into the rhythms of their days. It will be important for me to remember, for the duration of this project, to love God and my neighbors—whether my neighbor is Presbyterian, or even…an eater of cake.
This is the first in a series of posts: “Charity Goes to Church.” This week’s docket includes a Women’s Bible Study, some Woodland Hills action, a worship night at a local AG church, and next Sunday, my husband is joining in on a visit to Solomon’s Porch.