Sunday, September 9, 2012

Re-run Sunday! Life's short, church isn't

I haven't been going to church much lately, and part of me feels bad about that. But the part of me that's reclining on the couch relaxing feels good about it. I wish I felt less ambivalent about going to church, but that's a story for another day. And that makes today a good day to re-run this August 2010 story about how I felt when I was regularly going.

Hope to see you on Monday!

If it’s not the height of blasphemous hypocrisy then I can’t fathom what is: I’m in church to worship a man who died on the cross for my sins and silently complaining that standing for all six verses of “Thy Strong Word” is a real pain.
Of course, I don’t say that aloud, even though I know the entire congregation would agree. The service was in its 58th minute, another three minutes and even the Biblically patient Job would begin to fidget.
A good church service, much like a good sit-com, should never take more than 30 minutes.
Can I get an, “Amen, brother!”
Or at least a “Sit, Ubu! Sit!”
But does it matter if I complain aloud or just in my heart?
The preachers say God knows all, sees all.
(Theological aside: Does that mean He reads my blog? Most days, that would be really cool, but I wouldn’t want Him reading the days when I write about being prone to the seven deadly sins, something I’d do daily if it wasn’t for my rampant sloth).
Certainly, He must know this hymn drags on about three verses too long. Anyone within earshot knows that since verse four my graceless mumbling’s turned this 1969 devotional ditty into more hum than hymn.
It amazes me how much my mind drifts when someone’s preaching to me about the salvation of my everlasting soul. You’d think I’d be riveted.
But no, I think about golf. I think about the weather. I think about screwing the church organist.
I think the Lord is okay with that last one because the regular church organist is my wife and we were married right in that very church so it’s all on the up-’n’-up. But I could see how it’d be a bit of a gray area.
Val took the day off and so there was a substitute organist -- and if I wasn’t so danged slothful I’d try and conceive a lazy pun about organ transplants.
I don’t even need to look at Val to know what she’s thinking, something she expresses the instant we’re in the car headed home
“Guaranteed,” she says, “if I’d have been playing today, that service would have been over in 40 minutes!”
She’s right. She plays “Nearer My God to Thee” like it’s a John Philip Sousa march.
And the faithful love it. She plays beautifully. More important she plays fast. She is to the Lutheran hymnal what the heavy metal band Metallica is to thrash rock.
You can save a lot of souls with a speedy organist like that. Church attendance would rise proportionately to the reduction in worship minutes.
There’s parts of church I really love. I love the Bible readings, the gospel, and the dandy sermons our pastor delivers. He’s excellent.
And I love one really good, fast hymn. My favorite is “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” but I can’t tell whether I like it because of its message or because an inmate sings a soulful version of it in “Cool Hand Luke,” and hearing it frees my mind to wander to great Paul Newman movies.
That could all be dispatched in about 35 minutes.
So how do I kill the extra 25 minutes when they’re talking about paving the parking lot, fixing the roof, the rote liturgy, etc.?
I resort to sacrilege and try to crack the kids up. Yesterday’s church bulletin featured an odd folk drawing of three identical angels. I took the little pencil and on the middle angel’s face drew a soul patch and showed it to Josie, 9.
She stifled a laugh and grabbed the pencil. On the first angel, she drew an eye patch and upped the hirsute ante by giving her angel a Satanic looking ‘stache and handed it back to me.
Soon the once heavenly trio looked like Hell’s Angels.
Josie asked me the other day why I pray so much, yet do a giddy little jig every time I get out of going to church.
It’s true. Every night, it’s me that gets down on my knees with the girls before Val tucks them in. And every night I say earnest prayers that God will help the lonely, the sick, the poor and all of those struggling in a world that too often seems godforsaken. I saw a picture of a young Filipino trash heap scavenger, showed it to the girls, and often include her for color in our nightly prayers.
I guess I’m more spiritual than religious, one being of God, the other of man. Many good people are like that.
Still, I think it’s important to give our children some religious foundation. Religious devotion provides much solace to many good people and I want my daughters to enjoy that option.
So if a little church can help accomplish that, so be it.
We all have our crosses to bear.
Maybe some Filipino trash scavenger will divine my plight and say a prayer that guys like me won’t have to stand for all six verses of “Thy Strong Word.”

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