I was born into a traditional Christian Reformed church where my family were charter members. I still remember the crazy confetti carpet, the stained glass windows and the padded wooden pews.
I remember getting into major trouble for turning on the organ and banging away one afternoon during children’s choir practice.
I remember gazing longingly into the Sunday school reward case and wishing I’d have done more of my Bible Memory so I could get a Noah’s Ark cup or Jonah pencil.
I remember realizing in horror that I’d picked my nose while the Sunday school sang Happy Birthday to me. I beat myself up over this for years and always saw it as the turning point of my popularity at school. I was sure they all knew.
Eventually my parents switched to a more contemporary church. This was fine with me, I was never quiet enough to sit through the service un-spanked. That’s why my Dad eventually started giving me a roll of Mentos before the service, I couldn’t be half as noisy if I were chewing candy until the Doxology finally announced my freedom.
At our new church our pastor used videos in his sermon clips we ate cookies and lemonade around tables during the sermon. I swore that I’d never return to anything remotely traditional again. I was done with hymns and responsive reading, on to bigger and better things.
In my early twenties I left that church and went to an even more progressive church the next town over. It was at that point that I really thought that “this way” was the “right way” and that all the others were clearly doing it “wrong.”
I threw around words like “post-modern” constantly just in case people weren’t 100% sure that I was “in-the-know.” I was feisty and argumentative and more than a little arrogant. I railed at the idea of marrying a Methodist pastor and tensed up at the thought of being contained by a denomination.
And I was young and wrong, too busy claiming this new church and faith as my own that I failed to see how un-Christian my words and behavior really were. I spent a ridiculous chunk of my twenties giving very little grace to other churches, or to myself for that matter.
Now that I’m older I want to go back and shake 22 year old me. I want to tell her that the name on the sign, however modern, post modern or traditional doesn’t define the church, the people inside it do.
I want show that girl that she’s a fool for throwing the baby out with the bath water when it comes to church tradition. Because whether we sing hymns or contemporary songs, gather in sanctuaries or experience rooms, listen to TV pastors or those wearing robes we all bear in our hearts a need for the very same God who shatters any such constraints.
Don’t worry, I eat regular bites of humble pie over that season, God makes sure of it. These days my usual station on Pandora is the “Instrumental Hymn” station. Something about the soft sweetness of souls seeking God through those words makes me feel connected to something far greater than myself.
Today found me a bit too sick to make our home church so my husband Kel too the kids for a visit to another wonderful church down the road.
He sent me a picture of Caedmon, walking down the aisle of the enormous sanctuary, waving a palm branch with a tentative grin on his face. When I saw it something inside me burst, there was my son engaging in a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember.
His view of Jesus is already being formed by a Palm Branch on a Sunday morning he’s not likely to remember but that will be a brick in his faith journey.
I burst with Joy that my children are engaging in a practice that started back on the first Palm Sunday, with a young boy not so different from Caedmon who sat around a table listening to stories about God and salvation. Who stood in a street waving a Palm branch because wondering if perhaps his salvation, his freedom was right before his eyes.
Today I lay another piece of my arrogance aside and pray that in every way shape and form may our churches may be like the streets of Jerusalem were that day: a place where God’s people from 2 – 102 can wave their hands at the freedom their souls are finding in that man right in front of them, riding on a donkey.