This morning, we desire to write perhaps the most unique entry of our Morning Thoughts. To ensure that offense is driven away, we plainly state at the outset that this is a piece of satire, which is meant to be read, noting the humour but also digesting the thought being considered. In no way does this article reflect bitterness, malice, or ill-will. Rather, the art of pointed humour is rapidly vaporizing in this "offense-driven" world in which we live. If this article makes you laugh, then it will be a success. If this article makes you laugh and think at the same time, then it will be a blessing for which this writer will be truly thankful.
During a regular Sunday service, the time has come for the preaching portion to begin. After introducing his subject and making a few groundwork remarks, the pastor very politely but promptly states, "Please excuse me for a moment." After descending from the pulpit, he exits out the side door, and stays gone for about 10 minutes. While the congregation waits in nervous silence, the minutes tick by interminably long. The singular question upon everyone's mind is, "What is going on?" When the door opens and the pastor re-emerges, he very quickly and directly ascends back into the pulpit and continues his sermon exactly where he left off. When services conclude, some of the congregants approach him and query where he went and what he had to do. With a somewhat surprised look on his face, he responds, "I really had to go to the bathroom. I figured if anyone had a right to take a restroom break during my sermon it would be me."
One Sunday morning, the members began arriving upon the church grounds. As usual, some of the early arrivals gathered around the coffee pot to fellowship and talk about what a great day it is to be in the house of God. Also as usual, the church began to arrive in stages. The "straight uppers" walked in as song service got underway. The "5 afters" arrived after the first couple of songs. Then the "10 afters", "15 afters", and eventually to the "30 afters", that sometimes arrived during the opening hymn and sometimes not until preaching was underway. The only thing out of the ordinary was that the pastor was still yet to be seen. The song leader – quite perplexed – did not really know how to proceed. Some of the deacons motioned for him to continue the song service for a little longer. To the "30 afters" surprise, they actually got to participate in some of the songs this Sunday. Finally, after 45 minutes of singing, the pastor strolled in seemingly oblivious to the tardiness of his arrival. As the congregation wondered what had happened (Had he had a flat tire? Well, his clothes aren't dirty. Did he oversleep? But his appearance doesn't look like he was rushed. Perhaps he lost track of time? Yet, he doesn't look ashamed.), he announced the opening hymn and carried on as usual. When questioned about it afterwards, he said that nothing had come up. No car trouble, no alarm issues, or anything of that kind. What was the explanation? He affirmed there was not one. He simply did not get to church on time. What is there to be ashamed of? People do it all the time.
One summer, the church met for regular services during what is known as "peak season." It is the peak of vacation and travel by worldly standards but the peak of church non-attendance by church standards. On this particular Sunday, the pastor never showed. After singing for close to an hour, one of the deacons arose, read a Psalm, made a few comments, and closed the services. Afterwards, some of the members called the pastor's cell phone and discovered that he had taken his family to the beach that weekend. They were having such a good time, that they decided to make "an entire weekend of it." When asked about his responsibility, he stated, "Well we thought about you during service time, and though we were on the beach, we were with you in spirit." After coming back from his vacation, some of the members approached him – their tempers having not yet subsided from the episode – wondering how he could be so callous to be gone and not even get a "fill-in" so that the church would not be lacking. With a twinkle, the pastor replied, "Do you get fill-ins when you plan to be absent from the assembly?"
A particular church body had a pastor that had to do all the preaching, praying, and song leading. Though the church had able-bodied male members, none of them would submit to taking a leadership role in church worship. Further, most of the congregation did not even participate in singing and some chatted with each other while the others attempted to raise chords of praise. One morning during worship, the pastor – as usual – was leading the singing. During the fourth verse of "Amazing Grace," he stopped singing and reached for his Bible to look up a reference for his sermon that morning. As one would expect, the song died on the table mid-verse. Without missing a beat, the pastor exclaimed, "There it is!" Looking up, he noticed that the people were sitting in silenced shock. Even the normal chatterers during song service could only look forward (rather than at their neighbor) and stare. "Where were we?" queries the pastor and then says, "Would someone like to continue where we left off?"
To my knowledge, no pastor has ever done anything remotely like this. If one has, I apologize for the resemblance in this satire. Doubtless though, many – if not all of us – have witnessed some or all of these actions in members other than the pastor. One need only consider that pastors are men as well. Their standards are not higher than anyone else (though it seems to be a common, populist thought that they are). One of the clearest statements about the responsibilities of church members that I ever heard came from a dear old deacon that has long since left this earth for his heavenly home. He would always ask those members that behaved like the pastor in the scenarios above, "What if everyone in the church acted like you do?" Simply put, decency and order would crumble and fail regularly. What if all of us were "10 after" or even "30 after" people? What if all of us on a given weekend decided to just think about the assembly "in spirit" from some faraway location? What if all of us collectively needed to go to the bathroom during service time?
Brethren, it is better to laugh while pondering these things than become furious over them. Hopefully this piece has been a source of great humour while also investigating some commonplace behaviours. As my dear, departed father once said, "I can't give someone the want-to to want to." Sadly, the longer I live, the more truth I see in that statement, but perhaps shining the light on particular behaviours can encourage people's "want-to" and maybe in the near future they will "want to." May all of us re-focus our sight and align our vision to the heavenly plane of Jesus Christ, set our affection on things above, and desire to know nothing save Jesus, Him crucified, and the power of His resurrection.