“I am insignificant and despised, yet I do not forget Your precepts.” — Psalm 119:141 (CVOT)
April 10, 2015, ORTHODOX GOOD FRIDAY
Over the next few weeks, I plan to post episodes from what has been a momentous tragicomedy. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious—and deadly serious if it weren’t so side-splittingly funny. I’ve shed both kinds of tears over this perennial drama…soon to be a docudrama in the pages that follow.
Not infrequently, it has struck me, “This is theater!” So much staging and posing and acting and histrionics and show of force. I enjoy good drama, but, even though I’m from North Hollywood, knew actors in the neighborhood, went to high school with some—or maybe especially because of it—I steered away from theater myself. I couldn’t remember lines, or was paralyzed at the thought of forgetting them on stage.
However, interaction with ordinary “actors” in real life is another thing. We’re not following a script; we all forget our lines; we’re out of costume; we could all use better directing. Still, we’re all getting opportunities to practice. I’m remembering…Moses didn’t think he was too good at remembering his lines either, or at least speaking them in public. “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts….” Thus Shakespeare (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII).
Recently I read most of the autobiography of James Garner (who was likewise paralyzed at the thought of stage acting), The Garner Files, and watched a couple of his earliest movies—“The Americanization of Emily,” with Julie Andrews (both of their personal favorite of all their films), a dark comedy with a surprising dénouement, and “The Children’s Hour,” with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, a searing, dark drama. Both black-and-white films from the early ‘60’s play on superb writing, captivating plots, and extraordinary acting for their power to grip audiences. Out of such darkness, light still shines.
At the end of March, God used Dan Schutte’s devotional song from the “Glory and Praise” album “What You Hear in the Dark” to impress on me the urgency of speaking in the light what He had been showing me in the dark during previous weeks, in fact during quite a few nights of uneasy sleep by then. I herewith start to comply. In a number of previous painful scenarios in my life, I have used writing, in effect (I was not intending it this way), as therapy. But then I tend to bag the results and no one else ever sees the struggle or the results. It’s different this time. I sense the Lord is saying, O.K., therapy is complete for you; now I want others to start getting healed, this time around.
I have chosen Orthodox Good Friday—the Eastern church liturgical calendar differs from the Western by a single week, this year—to commence “An Open Journal” about my recent experiences at New City Fellowship, Grand Rapids, Michigan. This will take the form of a series of blog postings that I will back date to the date each note was actually penned. In addition to the original note, I may make additional comments to place it in context or expound it further. Although I first attended on Sunday morning, February 1, 2015, my first reflection was written on March 9, but I shall actually begin with my entries of March 10. In addition, although I did not make notes during the first few Sundays, I hope to pen some recollections about the sermons and relevant accompanying conversations or events.
Not infrequently, the notes betray “an attitude.” I contemplated editing out such matters as not being edifying to readers. On the other hand, they honestly reflect the emotion of the moment, so they really belong to the original setting. This is, after all, a Journal—an Open Journal—to the attendees of New City Church of Grand Rapids. I am no longer inclined to hide my findings. My feelings, however, are another matter, unless there are sound lessons to be learned and shared with propriety. My exposé of the doctrine of the Atonement has certainly not been done in a corner. I originally intended simply to cull professional responses from pastors and others I met who I judged qualified or appointed to an office whose duties require evaluation of such matters. This submission of my results was thus a scholarly undertaking, as originally conceived. It has unexpectedly morphed under the heat applied by the elders to bottle up my “teachings” and seal them under a ban instead of distributing their extraordinarily refreshing contents. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I urge you to ask the Lord for discernment as you proceed. This cup of polemical or scholarly tea may not be for everyone. Yet I would stress that I have no interest in abstruse, speculative theology. It is God’s revealed explanations that captivate me and provide my chief delight. “The words of Yahweh are clean words, silver refined in a kiln, fine gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6, CVOT). “Every saying of God is refined; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He should correct you, and you be proved a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6, adapted from the CVOT). These have been working me over for some six decades by now. May God bless us all with growing discernment and “absorptive” powers as we examine together His oracles in the biblical Scriptures.
Since an apology is most unlikely to come from the elders of New City Fellowship for what has transpired recently, by default it appears that I shall have to be the person to issue one. Accordingly, this new blog series may be regarded as “My Apology”—that is, my defense (apologia). In the spirit of fair play, readers are welcome to respond by blogging, but if I can’t keep up, I may have to issue further apologies!
Let us press on to maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ.