Originally on The Guilty Conscience, 6-25-13
I have lived in Wheaton, Illinois for almost ten years now. My home town (which is almost double the size of Wheaton) has no Starbucks. Wheaton has like fifty, or something. That is to say that I am a stranger here.
I ordered a grande dark roast and sat in the corner and bemoaned the energetic Monday morning conversations. I became the critical punk kid that I try so hard not to be.
Then behold the Lord spoke to me and showed me a vision of a strip mall so holy that everyone who walked in would be transported to the roasting house of the Lord. And immediately around me were seven tables representing the seven pillars of evangelicalism. At each table sat evangelicals serving “the work of the Lord.” The Lord said I shouldn’t judge them, but rather I should love them. I should speak to them.
To the seven tables at the Wheaton Starbucks on this morning, I say:
To the three College Church people discussing:
1-How the large, talented church in the Christian guitar playing, Ultimate-Frisbee-playing capital of Protestantism can’t find any Guitar players to help lead worship.
2-Flannery O’Connor being the ideal Christian author. She gets it.
By the authority of someone who has overheard three minutes of a private conversation and therefore can judge, I urge you to strum proudly. You have so many amazing ministries, especially to those struggling with disabilities. Keep fighting the good fight; untuck your shirts and welcome the wounded and God will provide one whose fingers press the fret board with skill and strength. I say O’Connor may get it, but there are others who get something else. So read some David Foster Wallace or Cormac McCarthy.
To the table where a Taylor University admissions advisor in full Taylor garb and a NAME TAG works and presumably waits for a recruit:
I say remember the English word for pagan comes from the word for country folk #uplandisboring. I mostly jest. Christians have long learned from those who isolate themselves in the desert in community seeking vision from God. Let us know if you get any because that would be pretty sweet.
To the fifty-year-old woman who drinks an ice coffee and reads a commentary on Exodus with a yellow highlighter:
I’m liking the Macbook and highlighter. Keep reading about Exodus, but don’t forget to check out the church fathers. Those guys were legit. Don’t fall into the enlightenment idea that you with your highlighter and concordance will have a better understanding of the Bible than those who studied under the apostles or that you can ignore the entire history of the Church and understand the Bible with fresh eyes. Dive into the ancient and ongoing conversation of the Church of Jesus Christ, who with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, see the Father through the Son.
To the very organized man with a military demeanor who drafts the second thorough outline for “Worship in the Park 2013:
Everything we do in the park should be worship. I love the outline (so does God), but make sure that you are willing to rip it up if the Spirit so leads. And if you ever feel like comparing yourself to a “liturgical church” by saying, “We don’t have a liturgy at our church,” remember that outline. Remember that outline, brother.
To the fifty-something-year-old woman (who from a distance looks 32) with platinum blonde hair and a CAMP HARVEST shirt:
You may have felt that you strayed too far south from the mothership, but we love you. We love Pastor James! Even though he said that congregationalism and infant baptism are from Satan. I think he was using hyperbole, so don’t let that keep you from dialoguing with faithful Christians who have democratic ecclesiastical structures or who think children can be in the family of God. Dialogue is important and Christians have been doing it for millennia. Check out and join the conversation. Most importantly, I can see the love of Christ in your face, which is pretty awesome. Keep that going.
To the large man (not as large as me) in a Wheaton Christian Grammar School (a.k.a. WCGS by those who are in the know) who greets a mom and her daughter (who is also wearing WCGS garb) warmly:
Keep educating, brother, and don’t tell your students that gym class is the most important class. It really isn’t. English literature is.
To the late 20s man, browner than the rest, with taped-together hipster glasses and hair extending six inches in every direction of his massive head, who writes a novel about a man trying to get to heaven and curiously thinks he is different than these people:
You are different. They are different parts, but one body. You are best when you use your voice. So use it and remember the reading from St. Augustine on this the Feast Day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist: John is the voice, but the Lord, “in the beginning was the Word.” John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.”
It was all true,
Alfred L. Cedeno