Weekly Devotional

Each week a devotional is sent to recipients around the country.  It begins with a story taken from my personal life, history, news media, or a current trend in society.  The story then connects with relevant passages from the Bible, and concludes with a challenge to consider personal applications.  These devotionals are intended to present the truth of the Bible to a non-christian, enlighten a new believer, as well as provide scriptural insight to the mature Christian.  This week's devotional  is provided below; don't forget to check this page when you return.  Anyone can join the list of recipients by contacting me at know.doubt.268@gmail.com .  There is no charge.  Your address is not shared with anyone.  And you can drop off the mailing list at any time.

the devil in the pews  (march 2, 2024)

The expression, ‘devil in the pews’, has been around a long time. It has been the subject of sermons, often using Mark 1:21-28 where a demon possessed man heckled Jesus when he was about to teach in the synagogue. A true story was written by the daughter of a pastor in Sellerstown, NC who was harassed by a prominent businessman who often sat in the last pew, and tried to disrupt worship1.

There seem to be no limits on how the devil will try to discredit Christianity. Recently, there was a funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City2. Cecilia Gentili died. A friend went to the Cathedral to arrange a funeral Mass, withholding some information about the deceased. It turned out that while Cecilia was said to be Catholic, in reality she was transgender, an avowed atheist, a former sex worker, and well known as a transgender activist.

The first clue that something was amiss was when about 1,400 people showed up for the funeral, hundreds wearing rather bizarre outfits. Near the altar was a picture of Cecilia, wearing a halo, inscribed with Spanish words for “transvestite,” “whore”, “blessed”, and “mother.” The photo had been placed above the text of Psalm 23.

The officiating priest began the service by noting the crowd was larger than attendance at their Easter service. The crowd quickly gave him several rounds of cheers, chants, and standing ovations. A friend of the transvestite managed to get to the pulpit and pray for gender-affirming health care. When a priest began singing the “Ave Maria,” another mourner took over and changed the lyrics to “Ave Cecilia” while dancing through the aisles, waving red scarves.

About then, one priest said to another they could not do a funeral Mass in the midst of such behavior. Instead, they read some scripture, gave a homily, said some prayers, and ended the service. As the pallbearers carried Cecilia Gentili’s coffin back up the aisle, the crowd chanted “Cecilia!” repeatedly; oblivious to the fact the funeral service was truncated.

Had the Archdiocese of New York made no after-the-fact remarks about crowd behavior, the incident likely would have faded into history. Cardinal Dolan applauded the priests’ decision not to do a full funeral Mass. When the family of Cecilia heard his comments, they demanded an explanation of why there was no full funeral Mass. A spokesman for the Diocese tried to smooth things over by noting a funeral is, “a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise.” It is hard for me to see why the dead body of a transvestite would be the Lord in disguise, or why irreverent behavior would likewise qualify.

I don’t fault the priests trying to arrange a funeral for someone they thought was a Catholic. The crowd, on the other hand, came with an agenda to turn what was considered sacred into something disgusting for a place of worship.

We may never see a bizarre worship service like the one in New York. But the Bible warns against dropping our guard and letting what appears to be innocent behavior creep into our pews. Pergamum and Thyatira were warned about false teachers and practices that would corrupt and destroy churches (Revelation 2). Never give the devil a seat in your pews.

 

1 The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo (Tyndale Momentum, 2010)

2   https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/ By Brian P. D. Hannon, February 21, 2024