It has been over 20 years since Mrs. Greenbean and I have sought to be a part of a church at which we were not called to serve.  So we are a little rusty.  Match that with the idea that because we have some very definite ideas of what a local church ought to be, and the challenge becomes that much more difficult.  Yesterday we attended a local church and the biggest adventures were in what they called “Sunday School.”  Now, right here, I find that term a little antiquated, but okay, I’ll roll with it.  Let’s do this!

Batman’s Nemesis?


The most fun was from our little sprout, who is an 8th grader.  I’ll get to her in a moment, but let’s start with our entrance.  There was absolutely NO SIGNAGE indicating where we should go or what options were available to us.  That would have been okay had there been people to show us the way, but no one was present at the front door.  We wandered the hallway, no kidding, for about five minutes looking for someone or some indication of where we ought to go.  As we poked around, I did see a room filled with crowns, diadems, regal robes and a throne.  It was labeled “prayer room.”  I’ve never seen a prayer room with a throne before.

We made eye contact with someone who walked by, but he ducked his head and turned right.  He never said hi or anything.  Clearly we frightened him.

Finally, a man who is clearly on staff at the church (I could tell because of his hair) was having a conversation around a corner and we interrupted them and asked if they knew where we could go?  He said sure and took the sprout to her class and then the woman he had been talking to took us to what she described as, “A class I know that is good and that you will like.”  I learned later that she said this because her husband is the teacher of that class.

Now, our class was called “the Journey” class–catchy name huh?  I’m just glad it wasn’t spelled “The Journeye” class with that superlative “e” that tends to find its way into far too much Christian nomenclature.  Our class was good and solid and the teacher did do a good job as he began a new section on the Gospel of John.  We were, however, the youngest couple in the class by at least 20 years.  The only criticism I have is that he was rather emphatic that John was written exclusively for a Greek Gentile audience.  Of course he is wrong.  There is no more Jewish book in the New Testament than John’s Gospel.  I did good though.  I was a guest and kept my mouth shut.  I squeezed Mrs. Greenbean’s hand tightly at key hermeneutical breakdowns.

Now, back to my daughter.  Her first description of her class was, “Well, they prayed for about 30 minutes.”  I knew what she meant.  We had the same experience in our class was well.  I always had to fight this as a pastor with my small group leaders, but it is such a trap to let ‘prayer requests’ turn into long drawn out gossip and salaciousness that calls attention to either the suffering or the heroics of the one asking for the prayer.  It is really sickening.  You can ask for prayer for your family without giving us a case history.

But wait, there is more from my daughter.  She told us that she learned her class was called “Middle Group” and was not technically part of the youth group. It was separate.  She wasn’t a youth, she was a middle.   I asked her if there were any hobbits in her class, because middle group sounds a lot like middle earth.  Is the teacher’s name Gandalf?  Does the teacher refer to the devil as Sauron?  Does Middle Group enjoy second breakfast?

No, she said, but she did tell me that the teacher made a mistake in her biblical knowledge.  My little girl gazed at me with puppy dog eyes and said, “It is a real downer when you are a pastor’s kid, because you can see when they make mistakes.”  She went on to explain that the teacher said the “High Priest in the Old Testament could go into the Holy of Holies whenever he wanted to so long as he was covered in blood and since we are all now great high priests we can do the same thing.”

Let’s ignore the very creepy way she said “covered in blood’ as sounding like a Stephen King scary story and celebrate that my daughter rightly picked out holes in this thought.  She said, “Dad, the high priest only went in one day a year, right?”  That’s right honey.  Yom Kippur.  “Dad, we’re not high priests, Jesus is our priest.  We can approach God all the time, but not because of us, but because of Jesus, right?” That’s right honey.

She said there were other problems.  The main thrust of her lesson was that Jesus is “Batman” and that kryptonite, because it was so draining and harmful to Batman, was like “sin.”  By now I was smiling full on because I knew what she was going to say next.  “Dad, SUPERMAN is the one who has a problem with kryptonite, not Batman?”

BONUS MATERIAL:  On a positive note, the pastor led the church in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, and it was really great.  He did a fine job with that.  However, for 14 years I’ve enjoyed fresh baked bread at communion so it was a little traumatic to be handed a piece of cardboard painted white.  I don’t think that was Jesus had in mind for the great feast of the Kingdom.


Yesterday in our Palm Sunday service my oldest daughter performed a monologue I wrote.  She did such a wonderful job with it.    The piece is a reflection of Holy Week based on the Gospel of John.  The Fourth Gospel is the one I’ve been working through during Lent and will also spend time with on Easter and afterward.  I thought I would post it here as many of us work this week to stay focused on the sacred time we are engaged in. 

For three years Jesus had tried to tell people about how to be spiritually healthy.  He had used metaphor after metaphor after metaphor.  “It’s like being born again,” he’d told the old religious leader.  “Are you thirsty?  It’s like drinking water” he told a marginalized woman in a male dominated world.  “Can you imagine eating food that came from God?  That’s exactly what it is like,” he told people in a synagogue.  “It’s like you were blind, but suddenly you see.  It’s like sheep that follow the one Good Shepherd.”

He tried every analogy known to man and God:  Wind, fruit, trees, servants, you name it—he tried it.  But the people still were not able to put their mind around what he was talking about.  He so badly wanted them to get it, but they hadn’t just yet.

Standing outside of Jerusalem he knows time is just about up.  The fullness of time ticked his whole life and now the tocks are louder as his hour is at hand.  His mission on planet earth was not only to teach the ways of God and of spiritual truth, but to embody spiritual truth.  The biggest part of that spiritual truth is sacrifice and atonement. The time for him to die at the hands of religious people and politicians is here.  They would not take his life.  He would give it.

Soon the water would be bloody.  Talk of being born again would become, “It is finished.”  The food from God would mutate into vinegar on a sponge and the taste of a bleeding, battered jaw.  The one who opened the eyes of the blind will now have his eyes beat swollen shut.  The good shepherd will, like sheep, be led to the slaughter.  No more talk of luscious fruit bearing trees; soon only the tree of pain would matter.  The only fruit now is oozing from underneath a thorny crown.

But the wind, the wind still blows.  It blows across Jesus face as he gazes at Jerusalem.  It blows through the Temple courtyard and down the crowded streets of the city at Passover.  It blows in the coming day—through a window in the upper room, in Pilate’s tussled hair, across Jesus hanging body, and in the midst of a tomb.  The wind blows and the Spirit of God descends upon his people and finally, slowly, they begin to understand and know what Jesus had been talking about all that time.