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CHURCH: to go or not to go

By Linda Waggener

Do not click the link below if it would make you uncomfortable to hear questions about how anything good could possibly come from Taylor County, Russell County, Indiana, UofL fans, Baptists, etc, etc.

Don't click the link below if you don't want to hear an outrageous insult to my birthplace, Sulphur Well, KY.

Link to service.
Or if you're tempted but never click on links, copy the following link and paste it into your internet browser -

Here's the thing. You know how easy it is NOT to go to church, right?

I mean it's even hard to get to church on gloriously mild days with temperatures in the 70s. Today's good excuse was a doozie so I have no idea what moved me to get out in 23 (that's twenty-three) degree temperatures and go to Columbia United Methodist Church.

I got into the pew near Rita Marshall and Mary Anne Loy feeling comfortable and warm. Then I noticed that our wonderful Pastor Ryan was not there and immediately felt less comfortable, questioning my decision to come when there was the totally forgivable excuse of bad weather. The sinner side of my brain groaned, "Oh no, not a guest preacher. And who is Jay Smith?"

Soon I got my first comeuppance of the hour. Turned out the Reverend Dr. Jay Smith - the South central Kentucky UMC District Superintendent - is right up there in leadership of the United Methodist Church hierarchy.

Having been totally ignorant of that fact had the well-isn't-that-special church lady side of my brain giving the sinner side of my brain an I-told-you-so flip. It took me down a notch even before the service started.

My ego would be beaten down several more notches as my beloved birthplace, home of all the people who loved me as a child, was insulted not once, but several times.

Dr. Smith artfully wove my tiny slow-going town into his sermon, using it as a place where Jesus could've come from and been put down for. He asked, "could anything good come from Sulphur Well? Jesus of Sulphur Well?"

He used it to demonstrate how Nazareth was looked down on in Jesus' day as in, "What good could come from Nazareth?"

Hmmm. Throwing Sulphur Well and all those other communities under the bus made for a pretty good analogy of how our tribes judge harshly those who are not within said tribe. He continued describing the ways we all discriminate without even realizing what we're doing, laughingly putting down each other's teams, states, towns . . . skin colors. I remembered a cousin from Indy who always introduced a brand new hilarious-to-her joke about Kentuckians to kick off every visit. There were lots of laughs except the Kentuckians among us also winced.

Going from very uncomfortable to slightly less uncomfortable, I gave the guest speaker points for looking a bit like our good LWC president Dr. Bill Luckey, only with gray hair. I kept listening.

It came out that Dr. Smith married Adair County native Marian Helm over thirty years ago, and that hit a positive personal bias, showing him to be a man of good sense and character. I kept listening.

He spoke a little like the storyteller from Lake Woebegone - deeply thought out observations delivered peacefully, slowly, with pauses to let one catch up when one's mind is working to locate the right gear.

Discomfort ratcheted back up as I listened and then began wondering what implicit biases I might have deep in my soul - things I didn't know I might have carried from my upbringing - all the while having believed that I had none.

If you want one more reason to question a sermon about the holiday we celebrate Monday, January 15th, go ahead and click that link. Even if you skip the announcements, prayers, music and start right at the second half where he begins speaking, you'll get uncomfortable for a good cause. You'll still think and question what's in your heart, and may look at others a little differently, a little more respectfully.

The next time I get up on Sunday morning with a really good reason NOT to go to church, I will remember this day and this message and go anyway. Even judging, even in discomfort, blessings made it through.

Please get well soon Pastor Ryan, and don't tell Dr. Jay Smith I had no idea who he was.

And all God's children say, "amen."

This story was posted on 2024-01-14 23:15:30
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