Here’s what I remember about the little church I went to each Sunday on a corner just down the road from the farm where I grew up in Oregon:
1) Uncle Dan. Standing in the hall between the sanctuary and the Sunday school classroom, leaning on a cane with one hand and reaching into his suit jacket pocket with the other to pull out an extra-large pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum. It didn’t matter whether you were a visitor or had shiny stars next to your name in the superintendent’s registrar. Every kid got a piece. I guess that made Uncle Dan a little like God. He’s that generous.
2) Folding tables filled with steaming pots of baked beans with sliced hot dogs, molded Jello salads, home-jarred bread-and-butter pickles, fresh picked green beans, macaroni and cheese, and pie. Always pie–at least a dozen. The once-a-month pot-luck was better than King’s Table half-an-hour up the highway in Eugene, where kids paid their weight in pennies. Church food was FREE! No one had to dress up. No one paid. And all were welcome. I guess that made our Sunday suppers a little like God too. Everyone’s invited to His feast. And the payment? His son picked up the check.
3) Flannel Graphs. I don’t remember the names of my Sunday school teachers, but I looked forward to the moment each week when they pulled Jesus and all his friends out of a mesh bag and made them catch fish or walk across water or heal the sick or even rise from the dead. It was better than Star Trek. These stories were true, our teachers said. And I believed them. Guess that’s why Christ said we’d need to be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Growing up has a way of crushing faith right out of you. I’m sure glad for those teachers.
4) Marilyn Laszlo. A missionary who came one Sunday to share the amazing love God has for people all over the world. Even people in far away Papua New Guinea, who’d never seen a white person before she and a fellow Bible translator showed up. The locals gave them a beautiful house on a hill. What hospitality! Only later did the women realize it was a house for the dead. The tribes people thought they were ghosts! Hearing Marilyn’s stories made me want a life of adventure serving God too.
5) And Love. Our pastor, the Rev. Don Byers, didn’t just preach about God’s love. He modelled it. Like there was enough for everybody. Like love could change you. Like it was genuine–not something he put on with his Sunday morning tie. A few years ago, Rev. Byers died, but the love he and his family shared all those years never will. That’s because love never fails.
Us? We do it all the time. But good always outlasts bad… like memories.
“And I will show you still, a more excellent way,” I Corinthians 12:31.
What do you love about church?