How many more minutes before the church service would be over? That’s all I could think about. Every agenda item on the scheduled liturgy was just something else I would have to endure. My mind worked hard to calculate and estimate how much time each of these “perfunctories” would demand: Invocation – two minutes. Reading from Psalms – five minutes. Hymn #124 – three to five minutes. Hymn #291 – another three to five minutes. Sermon – twenty-five minutes, if I was lucky. And on and on it went until the mental calculator registered fifty-five minutes. Fifty-five minutes?! Fifty-five minutes to go. Fifty-five minutes of nothing to do but sit here. Fifty-five minutes until I could be released from this holding pattern. Fifty-five minutes until my mind could run free again. Fifty-five minutes until I could do what I really wanted to do.
Mine was a test of endurance. The pew was hard; the clock, slow; the mind was wandering; and the scene, all too familiar.
It was ten minutes after eleven on yet another Sunday morning. I was right where I had been told since my earliest years I was supposed to be at that time of the week. And, for the life of me, I could not figure out why.
Ironically the one “well” in my life that was most often coming up dry was my religion. Other places of refreshment that I was accustomed to frequenting all seemed quite faithfully to quench my thirst, for the moment at least. When friendship was lacking, my neighborhood buddies were usually around. When things started to get dull on weekends, our television or the local movie theatre usually had something to busy my mind. When life lacked a competitive edge, there was usually a pick-up football or baseball game to be enjoined just a house or two down the street. But when purpose and meaning in life began to elude me, my religion seemed to serve up the same old stuff – unfortunately, most of it as dry and bland as the factory-processed wafers on the communion table. A predictable environment filled with monotone voices, placid expressions and shallow platitudes; nothing to write home about.
To me, my religion was just a place to go, but where was the purpose? What was the reason? Was it for guilt’s sake or God’s sake? Was church just a place I was supposed to clock in and out of … to keep God happy … or was there something more? My religion had served up lots of words to me over the years, but it had left me wondering and wandering still. In a world full of life, color and variety, it always felt so staid, bland and tasteless – black and white in a multi-colored world. It was, or at least felt to be, the least alive place in my world. It was a place, for some odd reason, that I felt good about having gone to, but rarely did I ever feel really good about being there. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was already worn out on religion . . .and I was only fifteen.
So, here’s a question to consider; a rather important one, I would think: Would Jesus be comfortable attending an average church service today? I have some thoughts on this and will share some of them in my next post. What do you think and why?