Sunday, August 23, 2009

Open Bible Church

Today I punched in the address of another church into my GPS unit, SeanSean, this time on the far side of Baltimore. Down 95, the roadside looks like a forest exploding. Then heading further toward the harbor, the forest is gone, replaced by concrete, bricks and asphalt, the concrete crumbling and the metal girders on the overpasses bubbled and wasting from moisture. The humid summers and the wet, frigid winters are rough on much of the materials of building. The bricks and rock hold up well, but the other materials of modern life buckle, crack, rust and crumble, so that the area I'm driving through looks run-down and neglected. On my GPS unit, the roads in that area are a tangle that I cannot make sense of, this highway, that exit, the beltway, the tunnel roads, a glance at the screen and it appears that I'm driving on a single strand of a cable, whose wires twist and turn and head off in all directions.

Hurtling down the road at 62 miles an hour (the speed limit is 55), traffic passes me in all lanes, the grills of big ominous looking cars bearing down in my rear view mirror before suddenly veering off to go around me. Through the long Harbor Tunnel, whose entrance always takes me by surprise as I expect to see the harbor before entry, and then back into sunlight again. The huge cranes are off to my right, indicating the docks where huge ocean-going ships unload their cargo. I can't see the docks, or the ships that should be docked there, but there is in me a longing for all of that. The industry of it all is appealing, and in a strangely working-class way is romantic. Perhaps it is the size of it all. The shipping containers are huge, the cranes are enormous, the ships are giant, and yet are dwarfed by the sea.

This is an industrial area, but I am through it in a flash, and the flat ground seems even flatter. Green and brown flashes of water, rivers of one name or another, with no visible shore, then a wide reed swamp stretching on both sides of the motorway, and before long SeanSean indicates that it is time to leave and a turn here, a turn there and SeanSean tells me I have reached my destination and it is time to “Sing for Scotland.” I look around trying to find a building that might house the church. I am stumped, but decide to drive around to the back of some of the small buildings. A small sign indicates that I have arrived.

It is a lovely old building, with beautiful wide-plank wood floors and nice moldings. Although it's age shows, it has been maintained well, so it is aging gracefully. The church meets in a small room, that perhaps seats 60 or 70 people at best. Pretty white folding chairs and lovely window treatments that are reminiscent of Ralph Lauren Home.

Upon walking in I am immediately greeted. I turn and Sean is there. He seems like a very nice man, but I can't reconcile my memory of the gawky, nerdy teenager with this nice, confident grown man. I would never have recognized him at all.

I don't think there is more than one or two people in the entire church who do not introduce themselves to me in the course of the morning. There are a few incongruities. On the table in the entry is a computer system where people log in their attendance as they arrive, and there is a nice sound system, and a table of sound equipment, though the church seems to have only about 30 people in attendance.

The pastor is, apparently, a counselor of some kind for his primary profession, as his sermon is laced with statements about counseling people and references to his practice. He is also evangelical about home-schooling and his sermon on Ephesians 6, “children obey your parents in the Lord”, “honor your parents” and “Father's do not exasperate your children” is filled with exhortations to home school, for mothers to be stay-at-home moms, and for the Fathers to be in command at home. He speaks of honoring parents as “extolling their virtues” as well as caring for them financially.

All in all it is a strange and difficult place. Everyone is so friendly, something my heart has longed for, but then the sermon is so rigid and goes over the line as far as scripture goes. Scripture doesn't teach home schooling. It doesn't even command women not to work. But this is not the first pastor to speak as if it does.

Bill Gothard makes these kind of sweeping statements and thus goes from someone to whom I could listen to someone I completely tune out. We have to be very clear when teaching or preaching that we don't make our ideas out to be “thus saith the Lord” kind of statements. I may think it is a good idea to wash the dishes after each meal, but it isn't a “Thus saith the Lord” command, so I shouldn't make it one.

Bringing up a child in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” does not proscribe home schooling or private schooling. I'm not sure I understand where honoring your parents becomes “extolling their virtues”.

But maybe he was talking about his preferences, rather than a scriptural mandate, and I just missed it.

Sean's wife, Jan, rode with me to help me find the Quiznos where we all had lunch. She's a very nice friendly, talkative woman who I like immediately. Sean has four very nice, well-behaved kids who seem to get along. The oldest is heading off to college in a couple of weeks, and the family is both proud and sad. Jan knows another old friend of mine from her college days, so that is another connection.

I'm invited back next week, and I'm torn. The good points: everyone was very friendly, and I enjoyed spending time with Sean and his family. They did preach from scripture, apparently going chapter by chapter, not topically as seems to be the standard for a lot of churches today. The bad points: it's a long drive, and the rabid home-schooling thing. I've got nothing against home-schooling, but it is A way to raise and teach your children, not THE way. I wonder if that is a common theme.

Absolutely overcome by heat while taking the dog out. Is it the heat and humidity or is it hot flashes? I feel and look ill as I wrap an ice filled towel around my neck, trying to get comfortable. Seems to take forever to cool down. Even the dog seems affected. She can't stop panting until given a cold bath.

The damp has my joints aching like crazy. I am forced to take massive doses of ibuprofen to keep moving, which has my stomach on fire. I wonder what the solution is. Lord, please heal me or get me somewhere with a drier climate.

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