If you ever want to learn about ancient Jewish customs, your best bet locally is an evangelical church. Evangelicals love them some Jews, especially the ones whom they refer to as "completed", the kind that have accepted Jesus into their hearts.
Yeppers, Judaism is the one Jesus-rejecting religion for which Christians have a soft spot.
So it was no surprise to the OCeeker that when he made a pilgrimage on a recent Saturday afternoon to Saddleback Church, home to Rick Warren and myriad happy honkeys, he stumbled upon a series about the tabernacle, that traveling sanctuary transported by the Israelites during their 40-year sojourn through the wilderness. Peep yer Old Testament for the deets, ye heathen.
To the OCeeker's disappointment, Rick wasn't preaching. In his stead, and to the chagrin of those fundamentalists who believe the weaker sex ought not do such things, his wife Kay took the pulpit, proving once again that God has the amazing ability to pair up couples and produce clans who run ministries like a family business.
Kay Warren pretty much kicked ass.
March 31, 5 p.m.
Good gawd, this is one sprawling campus. Once the OCeeker hit the property, it took him about a half-mile to get to the parking lot, but not before he had to stop and ask a couple young brothers in the Lord where the hell the sanctuary was.
Once parked, a journey of 10,000 steps brought him into Chateau de Rick. The OCeeker immediately felt out of place, because he carried two things he didn't see at the church--a Marlboro 100 and a Bible.
Indeed, Saddleback worshipers seem to like their Christianity served up to them in soundbites, a sort of drive-thru liturgy for SouthCounty believers with only so much time to hear about the holy. So, the Scriptures were shown on five large screens in the enormous sanctuary, which featured plastic, taupe chairs on the brown carpet and in the stadium-style seating that rose to the heavens.
Apparently, the OCeeker arrived late, because when he finally found a seat among the throng of crackers and non-illegal-looking Latinos, Kay immediately took the pulpit.
Without some modern praise to fire him up for the message, the OCeeker penned his own evangelical worship tune (imagine a feminized hipster who sounds like Damien Rice) :
Molest my spirit, Jesus/Yes, touch the secret place
You my Boo in heaven Oh, oh, oh, I need Your grace
Bumper Sticker in Parking Lot: "Not of this World" next to a U.S. Marine Corps sticker on same windshield. (That's one confused devil dog.)
Kay was dressed in blue jeans and black flats, with a red blouse accented in gold. Reminding one of Elyse Keaton from Family Ties, sans the sappy liberalism, comedic timing, and whole lesbianism thing. She was wrapping up a series called "All Access", a teaching tour through the history of the tabernacle, and the system of animal sacrifices that cleansed the Israelites of their sins.
With a backdrop of long, horizontal, red and purple lights pulled off the set of Dance Fever, Kay referenced at least 20 Scripture verses as the crowd, pressed between large glass walls on either side, took notes on a pamphlet that had all the talking points laid out for them.
Kay demonstrated, in Christian parlance, how Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system, going all New Testament in many places to show how he gave his own life for sinners.
Teaching about the Day of Atonement, Kay referenced the practice of Israel's high priest sacrificing a goat and then symbolically placing the sins of the nation on another goat, before sending it away. That's where we get the term "scapegoat", bitches.
She quoted Leviticus 16:22: "The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert."
"It's a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us," Kay said, adding that he has removed our sins from us through his sacrifice on the cross.
And so it went for about 45 minutes, with Kay straight preachin' the cross of Christ through Old Testament passages. Part seminary, part therapy, she spoke with a soft tone and somewhat quick cadence, her passion for the message without question: in a church that gets a bad rap for being Christianity-light, Kay Warren opened up a can of gospel whoop-ass. Too bad she was preaching to the converted.
She then led the church in communion. A hunk on an acoustic git-fiddle sang a worship ditty, accompanied by a lady singer and another man on keyboard. Gals, get to Saddleback and see if that saint is available! The OCeeker was in the nosebleed section, so he couldn't see if there was a ring on his finger.
A small army of volunteers passed out trays filled with the communion elements: matzo crackers and grape juice. The OCeeker partook, and fell into an awkward moment when he tried to pass the tray to the lady next to him. She was deep into some praise, with her eyes closed and voice a'trembling. He nudged her back to reality, and she passed the silver tray.
Kay then prayed for any heathen in the crowd who would like to know the Lord. Afterward, she closed the message by saying that just as the tabernacle dwelled with the Israelites, so does Jesus dwell his people. It brought tears to her eyes. Damn Kay, you make an OCeeker wanna find some purpose for his driven life. She then prayed for the heathen who hadn't registered Republican. Kidding!
Kay asked us to stand and read some verses out of Revelation with her. Nary a Bible page could be heard turning. The verses were on the big screens. A full worship band took the stage, and we sang some song about God's holiness. The less holy made a run for the parking lot. The more holy lifted their gated-community hands to God. White men in jeans and white sneakers swayed; their second and third wives wept.
And then...in the words of legendary announcer Jim Ross from World Wrestling Entertainment...Mygawd! That's Rick Warren's music!
Rick hit the stage. Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, he clutched Kay's hand and they walked toward the congregation.
"I'm glad you're back," she said, looking longingly into his bespectacled eyes.
She pumped up the crowd for the then-upcoming Easter weekend services, and God help her--it must be the Rick Effect--Kay commenced to humblebragging. As she invited the congregation to bring their unsaved to church to hear a simple message about Jesus, she added that "nobody can say it the way Rick can."
You hear that, Greg Laurie?
Then, the patron saint of humblebraggadocio grabbed the mic. 1-2-3 Humblebrag:
"All of history was changed by three simple words," Rick said. "He is risen. He...is...risen. If that didn't happen, if those three words didn't happen, you wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be celebrating 35 services in 10 locations. But he is risen. And God specializes in turning crucifixions into resurrections."
And Rick specializes in turning resurrections into self-aggrandizing ejaculations. Oh well. He prayed for (the thousands!) of us.
The OCeeker gave Kay's sermon an A, for "Atta girl. If you can cook as well as you preach, no wonder Rick had to go on the Daniel Plan to lose weight."
Not many babes at Saddleback, unless you have your communion goggles on.
In a sea of pasty saints, not one introduced themselves to the OCeeker.
Saddleback Church meets every Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and every Sunday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 1 Saddleback Pkwy., Lake Forest, (909) 609-8000 ; www.saddleback.com.