Monday, May 16, 2011

Maybe Luke was wrong because this is how it must have REALLY happened…

It had been a pretty good week. I was in Jerusalem and of course we were having a festival again, the festival of Shavuot that some other Jews called Pentecost. We are always celebrating some festival or another! Anyway, I was in Jerusalem with some trade goods and business had been favorable that week. I was getting ready to head home to Phrygia. I missed home but didn't look forward to the long journey and as a Jew it was always special to be in Jerusalem. Right before I left, the weirdest thing happened!

I was walking along the street at around the third hour, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a bunch of men ran out in the street and started babbling. I mean it was crazy! At first I figured they had just gotten into the new wine a little early in the day but then I realized they were speaking all sorts of languages. At first I didn't recognize any of them but then one guy seemed to be speaking in the language of my home. How weird was that? A bunch of other people noticed the same thing so we kind of gathered around in a semi-circle. Someone had conveniently arranged a bunch of benches that faced the door of a house so we all sat down.

Then this kind of crazy looking guy started talking. He was dressed kind of funny, with some sort of black two piece toga that was sewn together between his legs with a white tunic underneath it and a drab colored strip of cloth tied around his neck. It looked really uncomfortable. He had a scroll in his hands and while he was talking he gestured to it a couple of times and even thumped it on a nearby bench for effect. I sort of got what he was talking about, he was talking about this Jesus guy that had been crucified by the Romans a month or so ago and some of his followers were claiming that he had risen from the dead. Sounded kind of fishy to me but this guy kept raising his voice, shouting occasionally, was sweating profusely and had his whole diatribe laid out with an introduction, three key points and a conclusion. By the end, I was pretty convinced. He said this Jesus guy was standing outside knocking on a door and softly and tenderly calling me (and everyone else there) to come home and that he wanted to be my Savior if I would only invite him to come into my heart. Then he really got serious….

“Make a decision to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior today!” I will stand in front of the building while Matthias plays ‘Just As I Am’ on the lyre. Let’s pray. Every head bowed and every eye closed”

So this guy (someone said his name was Pastor Peter. I thought “Pastor” was a weird first name but whatever) started praying. And praying and praying and praying. I know I was supposed to have my eyes closed but I was peeking a little bit and saw a bunch of people walking forward. Pastor Peter said that I could have all my sins forgiven if I would repeat a prayer, raise my hand, come up front and sign a card. That was it? No pigeons/oxen/sheep and all that other messy stuff?!

I was all for that! While my head was still bowed and my eyes (sorta) closed, I raised my hand. I know I raised it high enough because this guy, Pastor Peter, shouted out “I see that hand!”. I walked to the front of the crowd and signed a card. I was in, time to get baptized! But then some guy next to this Pastor Peter fellow introduced himself as a “deacon”. He told me that I would have to be presented to the church and then once that was over with I would need to attend 12 weeks of “new member classes” to make sure I knew what was what. Once I completed those classes I could get baptized at the next scheduled baptism which was in about seven months. He smiled and handed me some papers including a "Doctrinal Statement" and a "Membership Covenant" on scraps of papyrus and a nice stylus inscribed with the words "First Baptist Church of Jerusalem".

I was kind of bummed (although the stylus was nice). I did what this Peter guy said but now I had to wait to be baptized. Anyway, I was forgiven of my sins and had a whole new family of people just like me who were forgiven too. I couldn’t wait to start hanging around with these new people! I asked the “deacon” when we were going to get together, you know maybe for meal or to see if anyone had a need we could help with. He smiled at me and said: “Now hold on son, don’t get all excited! All of us will get together just like family.”

I said great, when? Then he said something weird: “On the next first day of the week, at around the fifth hour we are going to meet for a ‘worship service’. We should be done by the sixth hour. Make sure you wear your best toga!” I was confused. We have to wait until then? Why not right away? He started getting a little testy “Son, Pastor Peter can’t be everywhere at once and we can’t meet without him”. Chagrined, I asked what I should bring to the meeting. “You don’t need to bring anything except maybe a stylus and some papyrus to take notes on while Pastor Peter is preaching.” Now I was really confused. So only Pastor Peter was speaking, we were all just going to sit around and listen to him? The “deacon” was getting really upset now. He said something about me having a problem with authority and that I must be one of those “emergent” types. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded bad. I had only been a part of this church for a few minutes and I was already in trouble! The deacon stomped off toward Pastor Peter.

I got really nervous when Pastor Peter came over to me. He was smiling though so I figured this was all just a misunderstanding. He came up to me, shook my hand and invited me to his office. He had tons of scrolls on the walls (although some looked liked they had never been unrolled) and a piece of papyrus from Jerusalem Baptist Seminary declaring that he has some sort of special educational achievement. I couldn’t read half of what the papyrus said but the words were very flowery and there was a fancy wax seal on it, so it must be official. Pastor Peter began to tell me why it was important that I submit to the pastors of the church even when it didn’t make much sense. Pastor Peter told me that he was specially charged with making sure that no one believed the wrong things or said the wrong things so it was best if he did all of the talking and we learned from him. I asked what would happen if I really wanted to serve this Jesus that I had just learned about. Pastor Peter beamed at me and said “Well, if after a while you feel ‘called to the ministry’ we can see about getting you enrolled in the Jerusalem Baptist Seminary. It is kind of expensive but you can always get loans to pay for your classes!” That seemed like an odd way to go about it, but Pastor Peter knew what he was talking about.

I left his office feeling much better and headed to the nearby clothing shop. No way was I showing up to this ‘worship service’ thing in an old toga!


Alan Knox said...


I was very excited about this post when I first started reading it. It sounded so scriptural and true. Then, I got to the end and realized that you left out the offering. No one passed any plates around? Yeah, right. You know what they say, "A little truth is all falsehood." You're obviously a false teacher.

No offering... hmph.


Debbie said...

Hmmmm..... and this post promotes unity how?

I don't see how a caricature that slams people fits with your post about disunity.

Arthur Sido said...

It was their first time visiting so they would have turned in "contact cards" instead of money. Geez, haven't you ever been in church?

Arthur Sido said...

A caricature? What do you mean?

Debbie said...

A caricature is (according to Webster) "exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics." I think your description here of how a church functions definitely meets that definition.

(BTW, I find it interesting that you don't question why I would consider this post to be a slam, or why I wonder how it promotes unity. Apparently you already understand those aspects of my comment.)

Tim said...

Amazing! I loved it. Oddly enough, just last night I wrote a post titled "Things Not Found In The Bible." As part of that, I rewrote Acts 2:42-47 to reflect the modern church.

It seems God is teaching the same things to people all over the world.

Eric Holcombe said...

If the shoe fits, kick somebody?

Aussie John said...


Sounds very familiar! :)

Arthur Sido said...


I was being sarcastic, I know what a caricature means. In this case I think there is a great deal of truth underneath the hyperbole.

Being unified in reality doesn't mean that you overlook where things are off-kilter.

Debbie said...


Being unified also doesn't mean being snide and sarcastic. Won't real unity start with caring for others rather than pointing the finger at them? I just don't understand how posts like this jive with posts about unity. Why on earth would anyone believe you really want to promote unity in the Church when you appear to take delight in slamming people?

Art Mealer said...

Maybe Debbie has a point. There is such a huge gap between the church practices today and those we read about in the bible, that the one version seems absurd to the other.

To suggest that it would be normal to proclaim to the lost, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized" and to urge them to "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!" would seem politically incorrect, a bit too strong, and not culturally sensitive.

And how wildly idealistic to image that three thousand people would respond to such a harsh message they they "were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers." That there could be a church where "all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw."

But, there it is. Or, was.

Arthur Sido said...


Why on earth would anyone believe you really want to promote unity in the Church when you appear to take delight in slamming people?

I would hope people take what I wrote in the tongue in cheek spirit it was intended and recognize that I am engaging in sarcasm and hyperbole to make a point that will hopefully cause people to think.

Arthur Sido said...


It seems that some people (not speaking of Debbie) are so ingrained into our church culture that they cannot see anything else, even when it is explicit in the Scriptures.

Debbie said...


Maybe our main difference (in communication, at least) is that you see sarcasm as a tool and I see it as a weapon. To me, sarcasm is inherently negative and inaccurate. So, while it's fun to use among like-minded people as a way to point out others' faults, it's not much use in promoting thoughtful dialog...or unity.