It's easy and comfortable for me to believe that Christians only come in the Southern Baptist flavor. The one using words such as Lottie Moon, WMU, Bible drill, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Lord's Supper, baptistry, fellowship, and the like. But, lately, I've been reminded that there are many varieties of congregations who believe that Jesus is God's only Son, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and rose from the grave on the third day after He was buried in a tomb. Those congregations worship and express their faith in noticeably different ways than the ones I have practiced for 72 years. (Gulp. Yes, I had a birthday this week.) For the sake of the title of this post, let's say Baptists are vanilla -- not plain, you understand, but that rich, hand-churned variety. :)
For the last two Sundays, I had the opportunity to play for the morning services at St. John's Episcopal Church in Decatur. If Baptists are vanilla, then Episcopals are more like Rocky Road with all that chocolate and those nuts and marshmallows. Very ornate. Stately architecture, carved pews, and elaborate altar. Heavily embroidered robes. Tall brass candlesticks and crosses. "High-church" hymns and music. 98% of the worship written out in advance and read by the priests, lay readers, and congregation. Long passages of Scripture and carefully-worded prayers. But, you know what? The people I met at St. John's were friendly, gracious, helpful, and extremely accepting of an "outsider" like me. There was kneeling during their services and a time of confession that I found deeply meaningful. They pray for the President of the United States, the Governor of Alabama, and the Mayor of Decatur every Sunday BY NAME. I liked that. I was very nervous the first Sunday I played, but by the second Sunday, I understood more about the flow of their worship style and could appreciate it more.
About a month ago, I attended the funeral of one of Steve's high school classmates at Moulton Church of Christ. I realize a funeral is not the same as a Sunday morning worship service, but I was able to observe the differences in how that denomination incorporates music. A capella singing with full harmony. All the verses of the hymns. No starting pitch given. Just start and sing. I didn't know ANY of the hymns. The message time was full of testimonies about the faithfulness of the life of the deceased and of her many acts of service to others and to the church. We heard a lot about heaven. Maybe we can think of this flavor of Christians as strawberry.
Our daughter Julie and her family attend Decatur Presbyterian Church. The music, a mix of traditional and contemporary, is very familiar. Much of their service is also printed ahead of time. I love the way the pastor prays specifically for needs in the congregation -- particularly sick people and expectant mothers. Baptism -- sprinkling -- is vastly different from my own. Again, I've found gracious, generous, loving people every time I've attended. Shall we call them pistachio?
Methodists -- butter pecan?
Lutheran -- mint chocolate chip?
The point of this, I suppose, is I've been reminded that ALL of these flavors will some day gather around the throne in heaven in our new, glorified bodies worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I have no idea what our "style" of worship will be, but I do believe there will be singing -- lots and lots of singing -- and that we will be unified in our praise.
Revelation 7: 9-10 -- "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Christians may come in different flavors, but we're all still ice cream. Make sense?
One other word about flavor. The flavor mentioned by Jesus when He described what He wants us to be is SALTY. No matter the style of our worship, the end result should be saltiness that flavors or impacts the whole world.
Matthew 5:13 -- "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
My purpose is not to make everyone want to be a Baptist but to encourage each of us to STAY SALTY. To keep sharing our faith and telling the world about Jesus.