The large sanctuary was filled to capacity this morning. Not because we have had a sudden influx of new believers in our congregation, although that would be wonderful; but rather because we had only one service instead of the usual three.
This change in the service schedule was not because the pastor has gotten too tired to deliver the sermon more than once, nor because we have so few attending each service that we needed to combine them. Our pastor is well able, and each service is well attended. So why the "everybody squeeze to the middle of the pew" routine?
The purpose was to encourage us to relate to each other as one large extended family, and to get to know one another better. In order to illustrate the need for being "real" in our walk as believers, here came a .... wait for it .... a puppet. Whaaaattt???
Now I will admit that I have never had any great affinity for puppets, even in "children's church." They always seemed a little too cute for my tastes. And to bring one on to speak to the grown-ups, well, let's just say I was in a less than receptive frame of mind.
When I am wrong, I am wrong. His name (the puppet's) was Harold, and he was interrupted while watching his Sunday football game, to answer a couple of questions from the pastor. Essentially, after a brief back-an-forth, he agreed to join us for the service but said he would need to excuse himself for a moment first, to put on his "church face."
Harold disappeared from the window, and quickly re-appeared with a smarmy smile plastered on his fakey little mug, and a glittering fake halo hovering over his goofy head. Even I had to laugh.
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Where did we ever get this silly idea that we have to be something other than what we really are, in order go to church?
I don't know about those from other church traditions; but I have a pretty good idea about where it came from in my own church background. It was the ubiquitous greeting that I heard every Sunday for many years, "Have you got the victory?"
The fully expected response was a vigorous affirmative.
There was even a joke in those days, wherein if a Christian was audacious enough to admit that they were "doing the best they could under the circumstances" the tongue-in-cheek response was, "Well, what are you doing under there?"
I still cringe when I recall those long ago days. Yes, there was much of value in the former church traditions. Much that I occasionally miss to this day. But the ever-present need to be on top of things, always positive, wearing a victorious smile and a fake halo, well, those are not things that I miss.
While I cannot speak for anyone else, I can honestly attest to the fact that my own "fake halo" always felt like just that - fake. Yes, I honestly loved the Lord, usually loved his people and even enjoyed teaching Sunday school classes much of the time. (Other times it was a real chore. Okay?)
But that cultural pressure to be "perfect" - to constantly appear to be above the earthly fray, that was wearisome. For nearly twenty years as a pastor's wife, I generally taught a Sunday school class, helped with refreshments, often led the congregational singing, and then had people over for Sunday dinner after church.
You were expected to be "present and accounted for" when you were sick, when you were exhausted, and when you were discouraged: you still showed up. Two of my three children were born on Mondays, and one on a Tuesday - and in each instance I was back in church the following Sunday morning, sitting on the front pew, dressed to the nines and holding a five or six day old newborn. I kid you not.
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So I know a little about fake halos. And for myself, I am glad that we have come to the point that we can make fun of ourselves, and say, "Come on. Could we just be real people, with real problems, and a real faith to apply to those life challenges?"
We Christians are not perfect. (This is not new information, I realize.) It is the God we serve who is perfect, not his followers. What we are is forgiven. And thankfully, quite a number of us have long since discarded our fake halos. What a blessed relief!
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Hope your Sunday is refreshing in a real way. We are home from church, and currently watching the Packers trounce the Colts. Hope the team you are rooting for wins! :) Until next time ... Marsha