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Thinking Out Loud

A 'catholic' Spirit

by Michael Jinkins | Mar 22, 2016

Catholic SpiritThe first church I served after graduating from college stood at an obscure crossroads on the windswept plains of West Texas. I recall, upon driving into the dusty parking lot that first time, noticing the rather strange ornament atop its steeple. It appeared oddly familiar. I just couldn't place what it was. A few weeks after arriving, I finally got around to asking someone what it symbolized.

"Well, preacher, when we got finished putting up that steeple, it looked like it needed something to top it off. Somebody suggested we get a cross, but that looks too Catholic. So we came up with that ourselves."

"And what is it?" I asked.

"You'd never guess would you, but that there is a float out of the tank of a toilet. We painted it and stuck it up there. Looks real nice, doesn't it?"

I was speechless. Still am, sort of. Not so much at their ingenuity, but at whatever it was that motivated these good folks to put a toilet float on top of their church in place of the ancient symbol of Christianity ... just to keep from looking too Catholic.

This story comes to mind in part because we have entered Holy Week, the observance of which was not a part of my childhood because I grew up in a church that seemed more concerned not to "look too Catholic" than it was just to engage in practices that have given Christians meaning from the church's earliest days. The church of my childhood had just three holy days: Christmas (which ended by December 26th), Easter (which celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, though we didn't really observe Maundy Thursday or Good Friday), and the most sacred holy day of the entire year: Mother's Day.

As an adult Presbyterian who has benefited from a spectacularly rich liturgical church life, I fell in love with the many festivals and holy days of the church catholic — the larger church, the universal church, the one we confess belonging to in the "Apostles Creed." The holy days of the church catholic allow us to journey through salvation history, through the life of Christ and, consequently, deeper and deeper into an exploration of our own walk of faith. From the mournful tones of Advent, full of longing and distant hope, prophets' dreams and angels' promises to Pentecost's fiery morning, if we pay attention to the church's liturgy, we can find ourselves anew in God's faithfulness.

This week, we journey from the misguided crowds waving palms to the angry mobs calling for the death of Jesus. We sit between a betrayer and a denier of Jesus as he lovingly feeds every one of us. We see the lengths people will go to rid themselves of God and the lengths to which God will go to love them. We will keep vigil on a lonely night when the world seems empty of hope and only the grave seems full. And, on a spring morning soon, we will stand among lilies, light and a lot of folks we see only very occasionally to bear witness to news that startled the first disciples and leaves us awestruck still.

Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. But, to sing "alleluia," we will have to wait till Sunday.

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