On Saturday evening, I got a text from my friend/mentor/boss, Mark.
Wanna do Soul City Church tomorrow? 8am service? It’s baptism Sunday!
Soul City is a church in downtown Chicago. It’s Evangelical, but fairly progressive and caters to younger people (when I speak of ‘younger people’, I don’t mean it as a number, but rather an internal measure).
As comforting as that is, I’m still a little terrified of mainstream Christian churches. As big of a Jesus fan that I am, I still don’t buy into the hard-line belief that Jesus is the one to be worshipped. I could go on and on about the theological and metaphysical underpinnings of this, but I’ll leave it right there for now.
Anyhow, a part of me was open to it. Since we’re starting a church of our own, it’d be good to at least go down and see what a ‘successful’ church in Chicago looks like. So I said yes. And we headed downtown early on Sunday to attend the 8am service.
As soon as we got there, I was struck by how much care they’d placed on making Soul City an experience. It’s totally the church equivalent of Soul Cycle — almost in an overbearing way. But I dug it.
In the commons (is that what they call it?), I met some people, all of whom were incredibly nice, welcoming and so not in-your-face about the Jesus thing.
We walked in and sat down in the dark, low-ceilinged, nightclubesque room that was their sanctuary. The band rocked out on stage all wearing the latest fashionable ware and sporting the hippest haircuts of the morning, making me feel kinda lame a dad like. They were good — really good — although I couldn’t get my cynical mind to quiet down about the über-Jesusey lyrics.
Stop it, Jonas. Stop it!… Enjoy this experience.
I settled in just fine. The sermons was fantastic (I say that as a plural because it’s lead by a husband/wife team). They’d just gotten back from a hiatus and were charged to be home. They opened with a tribute and call to service for Houston and spoke out against the horrific acts in Charleston.
And then came time for the baptism…
Damn, do I want to do this?
I was baptized at 8 years old (on the same day my wife was born, divinely enough) in the Catholic church. My elders told me that baptism was a one-time deal. Was I overriding that? Did it even matter? I’m not really a Catholic anymore. Was this a rebellious act?
All the questions ran through my mind.
But I don’t even fully agree with this church. Sure, they’re nice, and we’re about 80% on the same page, but getting baptized? Isn’t that a bit much? Plus, I won’t even be attending here since we’re starting our own church down the street. Isn’t that kind of slimy to make them think I’m totally committing, but then to go off and betray them like that?
My lizard brain was having a field day.
And then it struck me.
No… This isn’t about them. It’s not about pleasing the Catholics or the super cool Evangelicals. It’s not even about pleasing Jesus, really. It’s about starting anew.
Jesus spoke of how this being born again thing was a possibility at any and every moment. He spoke of how it’s an inside job and that the water is merely a symbolic gesture of that inner spiritual shift.
Truly, I could use a rebirth. No, I haven’t done anything horrible (well, there was that one time). I haven’t committed any grave sins to be forgiven for (maybe the occasional minor infraction here and there, but only to keep things interesting).
But I’m stepping into something new here in this phase of my life. I’m helping start a church and am becoming a minister and spiritual counselor. I’d like to give my relationship with my wife a fresh start after four years of partnership in keeping a little human alive for the first time — that’s not an easy thing for anyone to undergo. We’re living in a new city, which is scary no matter how secure things seem now.
And I’d like to start a closer relationship with Jesus. Not in a worshipping way as he clearly stated how he didn’t want that (and would probably feel uncomfortable in the midst of the hoopla and fanfare in that sanctuary that day; not hating — you gotta do what you gotta do to get people in the door, and I think Jesus would understand that).
But I want to look closer to where he was pointing. I want to walk beside him, not stop and stare at him.
So, after fighting my cynicism for the greater part of an hour, I decided to take the dunk. It felt great. Something got washed clean that day, although I can’t put into words just what.
And they kept the water lukewarm, which was nice:)