by Al Maxey

Issue #430 ------- February 5, 2010
A precedent embalms a principle.
William Scott {1745-1836}

Peachy Parable for Patternists
The Great Pie a la Mode Conflict

It was a lush, fertile country flowing with an abundance of milk and honey, which was a good thing, for the king was particularly fond of ice cream. Any kind of ice cream. Well, almost. Licorice, to his way of thinking, just did not measure up. It looked more like something used to patch potholes on a pathway. But, some of his subjects liked it, and he respected their individual tastes. It just wasn't for him. His favorite was vanilla. Not that yellowish French vanilla; not that vanilla bean (which looked like little bugs had flown into the mixture); just plain old white vanilla. He ate it in a bowl, on a cone, with cake; he even spooned it over fruit salad. But the monarch's favorite way to have his vanilla ice cream was served alongside a steaming, freshly baked peach pie. Now that was heavenly. A feast fit for a king.

Peaches were not only to be found throughout the land, their soil was particularly good for growing them, but they were quite popular with all of the people. Men and women, young and old, king and commoner, they all loved peaches!! Cobblers, pies, mixed in with other fruits in a salad, baked into cakes, blended in drinks, and eaten fresh-picked from the tree. How could anybody not appreciate the sweet taste of God's greatest, most perfect fruit? To turn up one's nose at the scent of a peach was ... well ... "unnatural." Even their soap was peach scented. If you didn't like peaches, there was just something wrong with you. This was the common perception of the subjects of this kingdom. No, they did not go to war with other countries who liked different fruit. They weren't militant about it. In fact, one of their neighboring nations was fond of apples. That was fine. They thought them somewhat strange, but "to each his own" ... "live and let live," was their philosophy. They were on friendly terms; neither nation seeking to impose its fruit preference upon the other. In this way they had learned to live in peace.

The people knew that their king loved a large scoop of plain vanilla ice cream alongside his peach pie. It was truly his favorite dish, and he had often informed them of this. In fact, on one occasion, when he was throwing a banquet for his people, he had issued a royal command for all who attended this great celebration within his palace halls to bring both peach pie and vanilla ice cream! The subjects were aware of the preference of their king, and so they would always make sure he was kept well-supplied from their own orchards and pantries with the ingredients for his beloved dessert. When their king married, the people of his realm prepared a lavish banquet. The table was spread with the bounty of the land, and for dessert ... yes, peach pie accompanied with vanilla ice cream. They knew their king.

Many years went by, during which time the people prospered under the benevolent leadership of their king. They loved him, and they knew he truly loved them as well. Shortly after his marriage to his beautiful bride, who was chosen from among the people, she blessed him with a son, who, as fate would have it, was destined to be their only child. This son had grown up to be a handsome and wise young man: a true prince among the people. He looked and acted so much like his father! This pleased the people, for they knew that the realm would be in good hands when the aging king died one day. Indeed, the king was even considering passing the throne to his son early so the people could benefit from his already evident wisdom.

One day a royal proclamation was issued from the palace to the people of the land. The son of the king had chosen a bride. The great wedding festivities would be held the following year, and the people were called to prepare for the great day. It was further announced that on that day the throne would be given by the king to his son, who would then reign over the nation, with his bride at his side. The people were filled with tremendous joy at this glorious prospect, and they immediately began making preparations for the upcoming day of celebration. Those who worked the land -- the farmers, ranchers, orchard keepers -- began lovingly sprucing up the countryside so the beauty of their land would be even more radiant on the day of the wedding feast of the king's son. The merchants began making sure their shelves were well-stocked, as they knew the festivities would require a wealth of supplies. Every person sought to contribute in some way, whether great or small, to the success of this coming blessed event. The people had come together in a way that they never had before. The king was so pleased to witness their unity and harmony. His son would reign over a kingdom at peace with itself. He looked out over his kingdom, and saw that it was good.

And so it was ... until ... one of the royal ministers in charge of planning the wedding festivities began to consider what to serve for dessert. If this were going to be a meal in honor of the old king, the matter would not even be an issue. He loved peach pie accompanied by a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was common knowledge; he had even once commanded it. But ... what was the preference of the king's son?! The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the prince had never really declared himself one way or the other, except for the fact that a couple of his advisors had been documented as saying "he liked peach pie." Okay, thought the minister, peach pie it will be. But, what about the ice cream placed alongside it? The king loved it, but did the son? If the scoop of vanilla ice cream, so beloved by the father, were left off the plate, would the son be upset? If it were added to the plate would he be upset? The more the king's minister pondered this, the more concerned he became. And he couldn't even ask the king's son, for the prince was out of the country, and he was not scheduled to return until the day of the wedding.

The minister called a council of his fellow ministers to discuss this dilemma. There was great debate over the preference of the king's son in the matter of peach pie with or peach pie without a scoop of vanilla ice cream. News of these deliberations eventually leaked out to the populace, and soon the same heated debate was taking place throughout the land. They decided to scour all the written proclamations of the king's son to determine if he had ever indicated his wishes with respect to what should appear on his dessert plate. They found references to peach pie, but no reference to ice cream. For some, this was proof that the prince preferred nothing else on the plate. Indeed, several of the ministers insisted that by his silence he had declared his hatred of vanilla ice cream. Others weren't sure that silence within a few documents conveyed such prohibition. One servant located a document in which the old king had expressed his thoughts about the wedding of his son, and in which he stated that he himself would provide the ice cream at the wedding feast. Still others felt this was only the king's preference, and not the son's. No one questioned the king's love for peach pie with vanilla ice cream, but did the son feel the same?!! After all, he had never stated his love for peach pie WITH ice cream, only his love for the former. Yet another minister, one close to the prince, said that a few years back the king's son had told him, "If you've seen me, you've seen the father." Didn't that indicate that they were one in their likes and dislikes? Some ministers thought this made sense, others were not convinced. Had anyone ever seen the son eat peach pie with ice cream? Some said they had, others said this didn't prove anything. "The king and I are one," a minister recalled the young lad saying on a certain occasion, but this also was thought by some to be irrelevant to the debate. Inferences could only be allowed to prohibit, never to permit, declared one older minister. Others argued this was arbitrary and inconsistent. And so the debate went.

Most people in the land felt this was a rather unnecessary bit of ministerial wrangling, and were sorry to see it spill over into the daily lives of their neighbors, family and friends! However, a number of the citizenry involved themselves in the debate, taking sides with the various ministers who were adamantly promoting one view or the other. Some of the people stated the king's son preferred peach pie unaccompanied, others stated that ice cream must be on the plate next to it. Still others felt it didn't make a whole lot of difference one way or the other. Various factions began to arise among the people, some of which began questioning the loyalty to the king of their fellow countrymen with whom they differed. Charges of "treason" and "vile enemy of the king" were repeatedly leveled against one another; families were divided ... son against father, daughter against mother. The kingdom was becoming a battlefield. Some were accused of bowing at the altar of ice cream; of being idolaters. Some were so convinced that they alone knew the preference of the king's son that they determined never again to eat vanilla ice cream with peach pie ("out of love and respect for the son of the king"). The nation had lost its way!! Rather than celebrating together the coming wedding of the king's son, they had instead set aside their preparations for this great event to engage in mortal combat over peach pie a la mode.

The day of the great wedding festival finally arrived. The king's son returned to his own country from a distant land to claim his precious bride. The father's mansion had been prepared for the festivities; the banquet tables had been arrayed with every imaginable culinary delight. At last the doors to the grand palace were thrown open and the wedding guests began filing in. They took their places at the table, men and women from both sides of the great debate. They all sat there rather stiffly and nervously, partly because they were in the presence of one another (which they had avoided previously), and partly because they were each waiting to see how dessert would be served. The prince finally entered the hall, taking his rightful place at the head of the table with his father the king. By his side was his lovely bride. He looked so dashing and handsome, and she was absolutely radiant in her pure white gown. They were so much in love. In fact, their affection toward one another was so visible and pervasive in the great hall that the guests began to feel ashamed of themselves, as their cold disdain for their fellow citizens was just as visible and pervasive. Some began to weep over their former attitudes and actions.

At last the meal was completed and the moment came for the dessert to be served to the assembled guests. The attendants brought a plate of steaming peach pie to each person at the table. Nothing else was on the plate. Several of those who had insisted that the king's son abhorred vanilla ice cream with his pie looked at those present who had differed with them as if to say, "I told you so!" It was then that a bell rang, and the old king stood and walked to a corner of the room. He lifted up a large golden bowl and carried it to the banquet table. With his own hand, he scooped up a large portion of vanilla ice cream, his personal favorite, and placed it on each plate beside the warm peach pie. He then knelt beside each guest, and again, with his own hand, wiped the tears from their eyes. It was a day they would not soon forget.

The perfect peach pie,
In the eyes of the King,
Is the one attended
By vanilla ice cream.

Uniting of hot and cold,
Melding of flavors apart,
Is a parable on a plate of
Healing in a people's heart.

When it's This or That,
When it's Us or Them;
When it's "Do it My way,
Submit to My whim,"

It's time for us to join
Round the table of the Son,
Realizing the best dessert,
Is when we're all one.

Special Request -- The following special request comes from a reader in the state of Indiana. With her written permission, I am passing this request on to each of you. She has finished her course work for her doctoral degree, and is now in the infancy stages of preparing her dissertation. She is writing this dissertation on the effects of spiritual shunning, of which she is quite familiar: having been through a horrendous experience with the Old Paths Advocate tyrants in the One Cup wing of our own Stone-Campbell Movement. She was shunned and attacked by these people for years, and even told by her own sister that she should check into a mental institution for daring to walk a spiritual path different than that demanded by the OPA leadership! One of her brothers-in-law is still a leader in that faction, and one of the regular writers for the Old Paths Advocate magazine.

She wrote to me: "Brother Al, I am sharing all of this history with you because now, some thirty years later, I want to write my dissertation about it. I also want to help others who might have experienced a similar thing. Do you have any knowledge of this happening to anyone else? I am so thankful to have gotten out of what I now know was a cult-like environment filled with oppression and legalism. It took me years to recover spiritually." If any of you would like to share your own journey away from your enslavement to legalism (whether it be with the OPA or some other group), and the persecution you received from those who formerly enslaved you, please write me and let me know. I'll put you in touch with this dear sister-in-Christ. You can be a great help to her as she prepares this doctoral dissertation, which one day may be published and thus prove helpful to many saints suffering at the hands of the sectarians. Thank you all in advance for your help.

2010 Tulsa Workshop -- I'll be speaking at the 2010 Tulsa Workshop the latter part of March. I would love to meet you if you can make it. People come from all over the world to be a part of this wonderful annual event, and I'm completely confident that it will be a spiritually uplifting time for all who choose to attend. Shelly and I are really looking forward to it, as are several families from our congregation who plan to attend also!! There are going to be a number of well-known, well-respected speakers there this year, and I am excited about the prospect of hearing them and visiting with them. For those who might like to attend my talks, the times and titles are given at the Tulsa Workshop web site by clicking on "2010 Schedule." All three of my messages will be held in the Pavilion. I hope to see many of you there, and look forward to visiting with you and getting to know you better!

2010 Contending for the Faith Lectures -- No, I haven't been invited to speak at this event, but I will be featured on the program!! This year's lectures, which will take place at the Spring Church of Christ just outside of Houston, Texas from February 28 to March 3, have been titled "Profiles in Apostasy." It will consist of about 24 lectures on 24 different books which the Contending for the Faith leaders perceive to be forefront in the "Great Apostasy" plaguing the Lord's church today. Click Here to see the Lectureship Schedule and find this list of Satan's favorite books. As you might have guessed, my book -- Down, But Not Out -- made the list, and will be the third book discussed on the first day of this lectureship (it will actually be the Sunday evening sermon). The man assigned to proclaim my book as "heresy" is Lester Camp, a leader of long-standing within this ultra-conservative faction within our movement. If they would only wait to review my book until Tuesday, March 2, they could add "insult to injury," as that is my birthday!

Church of Christ Blog Rankings -- I have just been informed that with the release of the January 2010 rankings of all the Church of Christ Internet blog sites, my Reflections site is once again ranked the #1 site on the Internet. It had previously been ranked #1 over a year or so back, but had fallen to #2 behind Edward Fudge. It is now back on top. I thank each of you for all your support of this ministry of reflection and reform. Please keep it in your prayers that God may use it to open eyes and bring people to experience the joys of His Grace and freedom in His Son. You can Click Here to view the list of the top 25 sites. Why is this ranking significant? What does it tell us? After having given it some thought, and discussed it with others, I believe it suggests a growing hunger and thirst for responsible reform and change within the Churches of Christ, and a longing for an increased freedom in Christ to express the devotion of one's heart apart from the confines of legalistic patternism. Brethren are frustrated over being bound to the past, to the personal and party preferences and practices of their forefathers, and yearn to step boldly into the future, sharing and showing their faith in much more culturally relevant ways. Such is not a departure from Truth, but, in fact, an elevation of Truth to a place of authority above one's religious tradition!! The overwhelming response to ministries such as my Reflections reflects such a spiritual yearning. Our movement would be well-advised, and indeed wise, to pay attention to this voice of concern that is being raised worldwide, and begin evolving, with the leading of the Spirit, to where we currently need to be in order to better encourage the saved and evangelize the lost.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Maxey, I have been reading many of your Reflections articles and, so far, I have come to the conclusion that you are either a light from heaven or a demon of the dark side! I'm still working on which it is! You do make me think, however.

From a Reader in New Hampshire:

Brother Al, I am a big fan of your writings and work, and subscribe to your Reflections mailing list. You have helped me a lot without even knowing it. I would love to link to your web page so that maybe others I know would also find the support they might need.

From an Author in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, Some of the things that I come across while reading your weekly Reflections are just downright disturbing. You write a great article that leaves me saying, "Yeah, you go, Al." But then sometimes the follow-up comments by your readers are so very sad. It's almost like listening to war victims tell their stories. In my case, it is sometimes like revisiting a devastating car wreck through blood-stained photographs. I was repulsed when I followed the link to that horrible bulletin article titled "Are There Devout Christians In Denominations?" that appears on the web page of the Mabelvale Church of Christ in Mabelvale, Arkansas. I own three donkeys that produce less manure than that! Which leads me to praise Him for my freedom all the more!

From a Minister in Pennsylvania:

Bro. Al, I have been meaning to take advantage of ordering all your Reflections on CD for quite some time, and I am now finally getting around to it. I very much appreciate your generosity, both in making these CD's of your writings available to the public and for doing so at such a reasonable cost!! As always, I continue to keep you and your ministries in my prayers. I hope I will have the opportunity to visit with you one of these days. All my best to you and yours in this new year and this new decade.

From a Reader in Arizona:

Brother Al, I am enclosing a check for two signed copies of your book Down, But Not Out. I am excited about reading it, and plan to pass it on to my son-in-law, who wants to read it also. We have many couples here asking questions on this subject. God bless you, dear brother. You are so special and I can always count on you. That means a lot to me.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, I was just wondering -- have any of these people that you are in contact with who are so against change, and who talk so much about "change agents," ever thought about how great a change agent JESUS was and is?! Thanks for your Reflections, brother!

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, Just like a hot iron, your article ("Fellowship's Uniformity Factor") sears the soul with truths that, although painful at times, cannot be denied. I can't wait to share this with so many of my own family members. May I have your permission to post a link to this article on my own Facebook page? This is strong medicine and the perfect vaccine for what ails so many of us! Al, your ministry is a critical tool for so many! Thank you for all you do!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, I came to the conclusion long ago that there are Christians in what we call "denominations." I believe that the Lord judges and accepts individuals based upon their relationship to Him, not necessarily their connection to some named body. I don't always agree with everything taught or believed or practiced by those in the Churches of Christ. Nor do I disagree always with everything taught or believed or practiced by those within any "denomination." Does what I think or believe or practice make a difference in what is right or in what the Lord accepts?! The answer is a resounding NO!! What hubris to think that I know everything, or that I make the rules, or that what I think, do or believe is the only right and acceptable way!! May the Lord bless you richly in your continued work.

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