Reformed churches are known for a liturgy that leads the believer from condemnation, according to Yahweh's law, to the forgiveness found in the gospel. After confessing corporately (another reading), we confessed personally, and heard from Riddlebarger himself that our sins had been pardoned. Amen-arooski!
Then it was time for the infant baptisms, a still-controversial practice that some saints believe makes the Reformed churches kinda fishy, because, they say, baptism (unlike abortion), should be a choice. Naturally, Riddlebarger, before dabbing the li'l sinners with water, read a lengthy doctrinal statement explaining why the Reformed are right. With two tykes waiting for the water, Riddlebarger, per the script, asked us if we promised to pray for them and encourage them in the fellowship of believers. The OCeeker, who had accidentally wandered into the parents-with-small-kids pews, was wearied by the whipper-snappers, and was in no mood to lift up the little ones to the Lord. Small fry with the God-awful crayon drawings you kept showing the OCeeker: stick to math.
Riddlebarger preached on Psalm 23: the Lord is my shepherd, yada yada, so on and so forth.
A technically sound sermon from a solid Bible teacher (Riddlebarger's writings have eviscerated the end-times lunacy espoused by Calvary Chapel and others) by the time the message hit, the OCeeker was worn out by the robo-recital of Bible verses and prayer. Sure, the Bible says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, but a dose of soul medication does wonders too.
Still, Riddlebarger, at times, managed to bring lofty doctrine down to real life, as he spoke of trusting God in difficult days:
|Psalm 24: The goat shepherd|
"He often takes us in a surprising direction by placing a trust in him. Whilst we are being led by our shepherd to the pasture, we discover that the right path down which the shepherd is leading us might take us to that place we dread the most. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
The OCeeker gave the sermon four out of five crosses. Devoid of the trite "God showed me" insights from the typical American pastor, more practical preaching would have made the message more meaningful.
Then it was time for the world's longest communion. The elders each dismissed the pews one by one, so that each section of saints gathered up front to drink the Jesus juice and snack on a holy cracker. This took an inordinate amount of time, redeemed only by the fact that the OCeeker got to spend more moments next to a lovely brunette. She had her kids in tow, but no husband around, and the OCeeker joined them for the walk up to the communion elements, sorely tempted to place his manly hand on the small of her back and pretend, if for a fleeting moment, that the family was his own.
We then sang another hymn, and it was time to take an offering, which was the OCeeker's cue to hoof it. According to the bulletin, Christ Reformed sang a doxology, and listened to a couple of benedictions, one led by the choir.
Not a lot of hot singles there. Not one saint said hello to the OCeeker.
Christ Reformed Church meets every Sunday at 10:30 am. at 900 S. Sunkist St., Anaheim, (714) 538-1057; www.christreformed.org
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