The Visitor

Posted: April 29, 2009 in church

Well, I’ve teased it for a while now on Facebook, Twitter, and various other media (strangely enough they are a part of what got me into this predicament) so I guess it’s now time to parlez the tale of the mysterious visitor . . . also known as the story of the lady who called me a heretic. I’m not sure how long it will turn out to be, but I know that hearing the story live from the source including the funny voices and southern accents is far more entertaining than reading it yourself. If you want to hear the original version from the source you’re welcome to take me out and I’ll tell you the tale as it was meant to be told.

Anyways, here it goes:

It was a Sunday morning not that much unlike any other Sunday morning. I woke up early to go the gym, came home to make myself pretty and eat my cheerios before going to church and was gloriously oblivious to the adventure that awaited me only a couple hours into the future. So I settled in and got ready for Sunday School by reading my notes about transcendental meditation as I was teaching a high school class on other world religions. Had my mysterious visitor known I was teaching this class I think blood may have shot out her ears. As per usual, Sunday School went without a hitch, it was only after this was done that the adventure began.

So there I was preaching as I usually do in my golf shirt and dickies pants that will pass as dress pants if I want them too, and throughout the service there were constant outbursts from off stage right. At that point I couldn’t really tell if they were shouts of affirmation or derision but either way it wasn’t really going to affect much. In hindsight however it’s a real blessing that she didn’t give me the “East Side Church of God” treatment that morning as we were live on radio; but more on that later.*

Anywho, eventually the service wrapped up and I made my usual treck out into the foyer to force myself to mingle and shake hands – I say force myself to do so because this isn’t a habit that comes naturally from my personality but rather one that I have forced myself to do because it’s what best not necessarily what’s comfortable. Usually this mingling winds up consisting of a few handshakes accompanied by affirming statements like “good sermon” or “good job” or “thanks for the message”. This however was no average Sunday and my visitor – which I soon came to understand as my heckler during the sermon – was no average mingler. She quickly proceeded to grab my hand and shake it for the following five minutes in such a fashion so as to prevent me from walking away while she delivered her message. She proceeded to let me know that my message gave her “heart trouble”. Not the kind of heart trouble that a cardiologist deals with so much as it made her angry and bothered. You see she, “was the kind of Christian that has a faith that can move mountains. That thou shalt say to this mountain go there and it will” . . . a so on. She also wanted to inform me that there was, “far too much of the world in my message and not nearly enough Jesus.” All this in a sermon focusing on Jesus and his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. She then made a meeting with myself and the senior pastor set for Tuesday morning. Nothing much came from that meeting and we haven’t seen here since, but needless to say it made for an interesting Sunday and an even more interesting story for the kid working at the Shell gas station that night when he asked me how my day was.

*As for the “East Side Church of God” treatment, she was a visitor in town there as well. However there she confronted the pastor directly and loudly during his sermon calling him things like a false prophet and such. When she was asked to leave she proceeded to spend the next few days making uncomfortable phone calls to the church and driving circles in their parking lot.

  1. mike says:

    wow…i want to drive around in circles in church parking lots when i am older.


  2. Flatland Pastor says:

    As I have made my pilgrim way I have had some similar experiences.

    One day an exceptionally sincere sounding man called the church and we had a long and ultimately disturbing conversation. He tried to explain to me that he had been given a revelation regarding the nature of sin and God’s intentions for us. He quoted Scripture, used theological terms (often properly) and seemed at the outset to be a well person. As the conversation progressed it became obvious to me that our views of sin, atonement and the work of Christ were vastly different. I was still in my first year or two of ministry and I was trying very hard to be compassionate and considerate (that’s not to say I don’t still make those efforts, but wisdom has tempered my responses somewhat – consider Matthew 7:6) but he became increasingly frustrated with me and the fact that I “didn’t get it”. Eventually he accused me of preaching a “gospel of enslavement”, added a short epithet, and hung up the phone.

    I am always deeply affected when I encounter someone whom sin, brokenness and our human, infirm condition has so deeply separated from others. It is tragic to me. This young man was one such person. I don’t know why we were so far apart – there are mysteries in life – but it upset me that we should be separated over Jesus.

    In my experience as a Christian pilgrim I have encountered brothers and sisters I had not met until those moments when we came together, but who became as close to me as anyone through Jesus, and others whom I could not connect with even though they claimed to be following the same Savior and to have the same Spirit.

    Some of the brothers and sisters I’ve met have had cautions and words of loving rebuke for me – not always the most pleasant experience, but always necessary and a true gift from God – but we have still shared that connection in Christ, and in the end have shared peace between ourselves. The others, not so much.

    I am convinced this mutual recognition and experience of the peace of Christ is the affirmation that God provides to help us recognize each other. People will come to you many times in your walk of faith with a “word from the Lord” for you. You will know when they share whether or not it is a true word by how they and you connect through Jesus and whether of not the peace He died to purchase for us is evident. We have a responsibility to preserve that peace (Romans 12:18, Ephesians 4:3). Sometimes it ain’t easy.

    As for the the angry ones who are against you, well we are commanded to love them and pray for them, too (Matthew 5:43-45).

    Shalom Brother


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