There's something to be said for churches that tell you what they're all about in their name.
In recent years, the hipper churches have gone for cool-sounding names that one could read any meaning into. Indeed, there are no shortages of "Journeys", "Wells" and fellowships with numbers in their names, a la the rash of bands that infected radio during the 1990s. River 47--band or church? If you guessed the latter, then the OCeeker bless you.
Enter Christ Reformed Church
. The OCeeker dragged his bunghole outta bed on a recent Sunday
morning to take in some Scripture
and sacraments at the nearly two-decades old fellowship on Sunkist Street
, where he experienced the most Jesus
-centric service of his seeking days, despite the Reformed
trappings that reminded everyone that the Reformed are always right.
Here's the big "fuck you" delivered to inferior churches from CRC's website:
"We fear that many churches today have gone the way of the seeker-sensitive model, treading too lightly on doctrine, abandoning Christ-centered preaching, and down-playing or ignoring the sacraments and church history. Too often these gems have been traded for man-centered themes of self-love, self-improvement, and self-absorption. Worship is often reduced to entertainment. The gospel becomes too offensive or deemed too foolish to appeal to the masses, and so it goes unpreached or watered-down to become more palatable."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They suck. You rule.
April 29, 10:30 a.m.
Christ Reformed meets at Anaheim Seventh Day Adventist Church, whose gray, stucco building is trimmed out in blue, with simple crosses adorning the property here and there. The OCeeker won't ding them for compromising the faith by meeting in a den of bad doctrine (some in the SDA still hold to the sinful nature of Christ and believe founder Ellen G. White was a prophet), because, armed with his leather-bound New King Jimmy, he was tickled to see the saints walking toward the sanctuary with Bibles in hand, thus breaking a streak of sticking out like a sore thumb in churches over the past few weeks.
Christ Reformed belongs to the United Reformed Churches in North America, tracing its own history through the teachings of John Calvin and Martin Luther, through Augustine and all the way back (naturally) to Jesus himself. Claiming legendary preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and Charles Haddon Spurgeon for their own, the Reformed today are known less for reaching the lost and more for assholic attempts to convert other Christians to their theological views, namely, that salvation is solely at the discretion of God's sovereign decree. That's fancy talk for God picks whom wants to spend eternity with, and you have no choice in the matter, loser.
Don't believe the OCeeker, ye Doubting Thomas? Google "young, restless and reformed", and you'll find a horde of the Reformed who believe God has called them to condemn other Christians to the ash heap of eternity because they don't ascribe to a thousand fine (and not-so-fine) points of doctrine. The good news is, a lot of them drink beer.
At Christ Reformed, the mixed-multitude of Anglos, Latinos and Asians dressed all casual-like for the most part, with elders easily spotted in their suits. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, the church's senior pastor, donned a gray robe with black trim and two gold crosses on the front, as he lit upon the pulpit, which stood behind a table of silver communion ware, and beneath stained glass and a wooden cross.
If Christ was the focus of the meeting, Riddlebarger, with a mostly bald head and white mustache, was the center of attention, as he led most of the service with several readings of Scripture from the Old and New testaments, the Lord's Prayer, confession, prayers, a baptism of infants and a sermon to boot. Indeed, the two-hour service was soaked with Scripture and confessions, as the readings seemed to go on in 10-minute increments.
Those who favor happy-clappy praise should avoid this church. They love them some stodgy hymns at Christ Reformed, with an organ, and a choir seated upstairs at the back of the sanctuary. But what they lack in Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs, they make up for in theology-infused lyricism. Here, you will hear about the Lamb of God, and it won't sound like the crappy band that goes by the same name.
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:
"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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