Monday, September 01, 2008

The Gospel according to Walt??

Well, a couple of you have asked me to get around to giving you some reflections on the whole “Disney” experience I had while on Vacation a few weeks ago. One of the drawbacks of being a pastor is that the job and calling of a pastor tends to swallow up every aspect and experience. I find myself examining many things, not on their own merits, but in light of church/ church culture and faith. Disneyland was no different for me. I want to make it clear that I don’t think that Christ's Church and Disneyland are the same thing (at least most of the time). Disney is a very artificial carefully constructed creation that is extremely protected from the outside world. Hmm maybe there are more similarities then i first thought... maybe not with Christ’s bride the church, but the church we seem to have created in the western world...

I also want to preface this by saying that Disneyland is one of my favorite places, I know some of you reading are fighting a gag reflex as I say that, but it is. In fact there are some things about Disneyland I wish I could bring into the local church.

The first, is the fact that it is hard for people to be angry when you are at Disneyland. I know it can be done, I saw plenty of brothers and sisters screaming at each other, and plenty of Parents trying the “ok we are gonna just leave you “ and walk five steps away only to come back and grab johnny by the arm away screaming. (does the “we are leaving” thing ever work???). But as my wife and kids and I were walking past the bus drop off parking lot and the ticket gates, there was music playing, the sun was shining, you could see the top of space mountain and the Matterhorn, Grizzly peak and the Tower of Terror over in California adventure, I couldn’t NOT smile. neither could my wife and kids. In fact it was so obvious that it became a joke as we walked towards the entrance.

There is a huge difference between Joy and happiness. One is based on a situation the other surpasses situations and can even be experienced when you are sad or solemn. Disney’s happiness is definitely a situational fleeting experience ( just watch the taxi drivers on Harbor blvd. driving by the park when it closes.) But wow! there are few places where where there is that kind of feeling on such a large scale. I’m not sure I want the situational happiness in my local church, but boy it would sure be great so see people walking to the doors of the church with smiles on their face and expecting something. I was talking with a group of pastor’s a while ago about sermons that we gave that just pushed the edge a little too far for the congregation that was hearing it. Someone told the story of a Pastor (who at one time pastored the church I serve.. and now is a bishop BTW) who crossed the line with her congregation with a sermon titled “if Jesus is Lord why is everyone so pissed off?” I think I have wanted to preach that sermon. Those two places; the Disney ticket gate and the church front door, can seem like such a contrast sometimes.

The other thing I love about Disney is that it is such a diverse place, even though the magic kingdom is based in a pretty white bread story there were white, black, brown, yellow and red skinned people climbing on Dumbo’s back to spin around in circles with huge smiles on their face. There was a time in my daughter’s life when she was younger, when she equated any language that wasn’t english with spanish. So if you were speaking French, Dutch, Japanese or whatever the response you got from Adeline was “hola!” I can’t count the number of languages i heard in 4 days at Disneyland.

Part of that diversity also carried a sense of community. I know it sounds weird but I would be standing next to someone that I had hardly anything in common with, different language different culture but we had a sense of relationship because we were both experiencing the same event at the same time together. Often in the church we expect people to experience the “event” of worship, or faith in general, in the way that we do. Or worse yet the way we did some years ago. and if you don’t then the differences between us become large, we fall into cults of personalities, and in the worse case scenario we find ourselves saying “we” and “them”.

Those are just some off the cuff thoughts I’ve had, your milage may very.