I made my annual visit to a Sunday morning service in a “mainline Protestant church” a couple weeks ago. It is an eerie experience. Heart-wrenchingly eerie.
- A magnificent building.
- A magnificent choir singing, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of he world, have mercy on us” (in Latin).
- A closing hymn, “Lord, I want to be a Christian.”
- Three women pastors on the platform and two men.
- Pews filled with well-to-do looking folks.
The reason I say it was eerie is that much of this religious language means something totally different in their minds from what I mean by it. There is a keeping of the language and a demythologizing of the original meaning.
On one of our earlier visits Noël recalls the pastor saying that when he was a child he used to read stories like the one about Jesus walking on the water as if they were literally true.
What made my visit heart-wrenching was that the children’s choir sang these words—trust me, I am copying them from the bulletin—“Birds and trees, people and plants, dolphin and whale all lives are equal. . . . Sister Rain, Brother Stone bring us back to our true home.”
So when I stand at my study window that looks out over the downtown cityscape of Minneapolis, I pray: “O God, have mercy on us. Send a shocking revival to the churches—and a great awakening to this city. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.”