Sparks United Methodist Church
For writers like me, everything is a metaphor. Nothing is what appears on the surface. I’m not sure it’s not pathological, but it’s the way things are. So, when things don’t go well, I start looking for reasons beyond the facts of what actually happened. For example, it was my intention to attend the 10 a.m. service at the Church of Jesus Christ, Spirit-Filled on Oddie Boulevard in Sparks for this review. Sunday morning, I looked it up on the internet, and Hunter and I headed over there to find a disappeared church. No problem, we simply drove over to Pyramid Way, where we found Sparks United Methodist Church with services at 10:45 a.m.
But I drive by that other location 10 times every other week. So how could I have not noticed the sign was gone? And that’s where the metaphor extends into Filet of Soul this week.
Sparks United Methodist has a traditional interior layout: Peaked roof, chancel in front with a simple cross and screen for lyrics and readings up above. On this particular chancel, there were positions for a large choir with accompaniment. This being the season, there was also a very large Christmas tree threatening to overwhelm the pulpit. There are two rows of about 18 pews; seating for maybe 300 packed in. I’d guess about 100 attended that morning. Banners hung at regular intervals around the room and over the chancel: “Glory be to God in the highest” and “We have come to worship him.”
Christmas is firmly ensconced in this little church. Apparently, a few nights previous, the church had hosted children and young people for a sleepover and viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who made a return to the service to spread “thank you"s and Grinch-related gifts to the adults who helped.
Musically, I’d say this choir and band are worth hearing. The band did a kind of Godspell/Fifth Dimension sounding rendition of “Come on Down,” and I noticed several selections throughout the service that I found surprising, like “Circle of Steel” by Gordon Lightfoot.
The gospel reading was from Mark 1:1-8 (sorry about the long but abridged quote, but it relates to the metaphor): “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'”
Rev. Dr. Thomas Butler spoke on this topic, placing the gospel of Mark in historical context, mentioning it was written in about 60 A.D., telling how the term “evangelism” (from “good news") came about and the relationship of non-Jewish people to baptism. He’s an interesting, somewhat academic-styled speaker, kind of fatherly: “If we want to provide a message of hope to the world, the message is simply this: God loves you. God is here. And God is ready to receive you.”
So, on a metaphoric level, here’s what I took away. Sometimes, like John the Baptist, people will say things to you in no uncertain terms. Sometimes they say them by not saying them (like the removal of a church sign). But if you are distracted by the hazy things going on in your head instead of alert to the concrete messages around you, you will show up to a place that no longer exists.