Sometimes a man o'God wants to take a Sunday off. Especially during football season. Thankfully, the Lord, who understands our frames, that we are but dust, is a gracious God who, looking down the corridor of time, has given us a Saturday option for our church-going duties–the Orange Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
And that's where your affable altar boy went last week, as he sought to recover from his heart-breaking ways and tear-stained days.
Seventh-day Adventism was formally organized in Battle Creek, Mich. in 1863, and was spurred by the visions of Ellen G. White, a former Millerite disciple who, like many-a-movement's leaders, got special revelation from the Lord.
The Millerites believed that Jesus would touch down on Oct., 22, 1844. Like those in Calvary Chapel, William Miller, a Baptist preacher from upstate New York, believed the Bible contained hidden codes about how the world would end. It led to the so-called “Great Disappointment,” with disciples leaving the movement in droves. Later, the prophecy was repackaged to mean that Jesus went into another compartment of heaven and started his “investigative judgment” into sin and man's works.
The remnant of Millerites, including White, called themselves Adventists. Her prolific writings became foundational to the church, which teaches that keeping the seventh-day Sabbath is mandatory for all true followers of Christ. They also avoid those critters in the Old Testament that God said the Jews couldn't eat. Try to find junk food in Adventist-rich Loma Linda, and you'll be assed-out, bro. Traditional Adventists see White's writings as inspired counsel from God, but we're in America, and like any other ol' religion, people pretty much pick what they want to believe about it anymore. White went to soul sleep in 1915.
Sabbath, bloody Sabbath
In Orange, the church's stone exterior hides a cozy little sanctuary of white walls and sturdy pews. About 60 folks, mostly more than 40 years old, peppered the hall, which featured up front a replica of the tablets whereupon the 10 Commandments were inscribed. Only on this day, just four of the commandments were written down, as Pastor David Oceguera is preaching a series on the teachings, which the public school system has banned, because telling kids they shalt not steal shit apparently would corrupt them.
The OCeeker was warmly greeted by the saints, taking his place in the back pew and offering a hearty “happy Sabbath” to his fellow worshippers. Sabbath worship, or, more accurately, worship of the Sabbath, became readily apparent when we sang a hymn to the day of “sacred pleasure, its golden hours we'll spend.” As the piano player tickled the ivories and two ladies led praise, the OCeeker couldn't help but give a hearty amen to the sentiment, and a word of thanks for all the gals that have provided him such. The listless congregation of many hues, perhaps not blessed as much, seemed to endure the little ditty to the deity.
After the righteous revelry, Oceguera invited any and all who carried a burden to come forward and lay them down at the altar. Your brown-eyed boy never passes up an opportunity to shake off the shackles of shame, so he moseyed forward, went all 2011 and shit, and Tebowed near the stage. His heart, once sick with love and loss, emptied itself of the pain-de-poon, and his spirit soared back to the pew.
Oceguera, a younger pastor, dressed in a dark, woven shirt with long sleeves, dark jeans and a black tie, took to the pulpit, where he delivered a message on the fourth commandment, in which God tells the Israelites to remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
“The Sabbath is a sanctuary in time,” Oceguera told the congregation.
In keeping from brow-beating the sheep into taking a hard stance against any activity not directly involving God on the Sabbath, which goes from sundown to sundown starting on Friday, Oceguera said the day was meant to be a gift, not a curse. He recalled his own upbringing in the denomination, and days of no Friday night high school football, no TV and no existence except to watch the sands of time drip into a guilt-ridden nothingness, in a quest to please God and not become a “Badventist.”
Jesus loves us, this we know, but if he catches your blasphemous ass watching Looney Tunes on Saturday morning, you're up Hell Creek without a paddle, ye heathen. And so it goes in most churches that place such an emphasis on things Jesus his ownself said don't profit the believer under what he called the “new covenant,” where he alone is to be sanctified in our hearts. In other words, my flock, it isn't the day that is holy, but Christ, for as them ol' Scriptures do declare, our rest is found in him. Oh, and the Apostle Paul said one believer keeps a certain day sacred, while others see every day alike, and each should be convinced in his own mind.
Still, even though the Adventists have a warped view of the Sabbath, one that cherry-picks part of what Christ declared an outmoded covenant, Oceguera said he grew to appreciate the day, and the respite it gives to world-weary pilgrims on the narrow path to glory.
He also answered a question the ol' OCeeker had, as he listened to a thoughtful sermon on resting from work but not contorting oneself into a spirit-killing piety: if the Adventist preacher does what he does full-time, isn't every Sabbath service an act of labor, and therefore a violation of the commandment?
Oceguera said it isn't really work to him, and that he “gets to talk for 30 minutes.”
The OCeeker smells a pay cut coming.
He gave the sermon three out of five abominable shellfish. It was a grace-filled sermon highlighted by light touches of self-deprecation. Still, the OCeeker wondered if it was falling on deaf ears, as the young shepherd tried to awaken the aged from a Sabbath-keeping self-righteousness, and lead them into less burdensome pastures.