November 21, 2004
All We Need Is A Little R&R
Last Sunday, the church that I work at celebrated what they called Reconciliation and Remembrance Sunday. I’d never heard of anything like it and it certainly isn’t a part of the Methodist worship calendar, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I attend and work at an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church. At least, that’s what it says on the sign out front. It’s kind of a mouth full for something that essentially means we take pretty much anybody so long as they want to hear a sermon in English. It’s quite a hodge-podge of traditions and people. I am getting used to sitting with Guatemalans on one side and Asian people on the other. It’s kind of a neat experience…makes me think about what heaven will be like, when we are all there together, praising God in a common language.
Anyway, so, I’m experiencing this new multi-cultural worship atmosphere these days, but nothing could have prepared me for what R&R Sunday was like. I ended up on a pew beside a Southern Baptist missionary woman (which is kind of an oxymoron) and in front of a whole row of old British people. The lady was very nice, but wore an insane amount of make-up. I mean really, it was enough makeup that it is worth mentioning to the entire world. Sheesh, lady.
As for the row of Brits, they were also as subtle and quiet as a freight train, much to my delight. There are few things I love more than listening to a real, honest-to-goodness British accent, and these two gently aging fellows behind me put on quite a show. You remember the two old guys in the Muppets? The ones who sit in the balcony and comment on everything? Well, imagine them as two very proper and caustic old British gents and you can almost understand how hard I had to bite my lip to not laugh out loud while listening to their running commentary throughout the service.
When one of them leaned over to the other to show him how the ‘bloody Yanks’ changed the words to one of the hymns, I had to pretend to drop my bulletin so I could lean down and laugh out loud into my skirt.
With the hilarious running commentary I had been provided, you would think I’d enjoy the service a great deal, but mostly it was a very disturbing service for me. I’m not sure I completely understand the history or the reason behind the service, but I was told it had something to do with the ending of WWII. Something about how on this one day, all of Europe had a moment of silence to remember those lost in the conflict…I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it fit with the theme of the service.
There were people from all over there. More delightful British people, military personal from different countries dressed up in their uniforms, even a few guys wearing kilts thrown in for good measure.
Basically, what happened was this: A bunch of ambassadors and representatives from various countries got together, laid wreathes on the altar, and then sat down and the pastor talked about how great it is that we all get along now.
I mean, really. We all get along so wonderfully now? Give me a break.
That’s why the French Ambassador and the US representative (the ambassador himself must have had a prior engagement and sent someone else in his place...a fact NOT overlooked by my British friends whose ambassador did show up, in a tux with tails, nonetheless) stared each other down the entire service, and why the Russian Ambassador bailed on us, and why the Guatemalan representative looked like he hadn’t slept in 10 days.
It was the biggest bunch of bull I have ever heard. Maybe it is because I am becoming more internationally minded in this, my first time living outside the States, or maybe it’s just because I have a brain and a heart…but I know for sure that our world right now is not filled with peace and goodwill, and that we are FAILING MISERABLY at living in harmony with one another. You can read all the poems you want, or you sing all the hymns, or play dress up and put huge wreaths all over the floor…but it doesn’t change the fact that people are dying in wars in countries all over the world. Wars that are fueled by anger and hate, by wealth and greed, by power, by narrow-minded, misguided people.
And I hate it. It made me so angry to sit on that hard pew, watching all these people pretend that our world is better than it is, and then pray for the safety of those who are giving their lives at this very moment to preserve our world as it is.
I wanted to get up and shout. I wanted to shake the pastor. I wanted to sit at the foot of that altar, among all those flowers, and just cry.
Our world is in such a huge mess and it makes me so sad.
I’m beginning to think that there is no humanly way possible for us to solve all the conflicts. I think there is too much evil in this world and too many people who are willing to let it reside here and in them, for it to go away. I don’t think we will ever know true and absolute peace again until Jesus comes back.
And Lord, I am so ready.