In my book (and it's getting quite large), television programming has gone off the page of common sense, not to mention decency. My good friend and spiritual mentor, the Rev. Frank Simmons used to say, "The problem with common sense these days is that it's not that common."
The latest craze in small screen programming from these celluloid geniuses of our day is something they call reality TV. What I want to know is, on what part of the planet is eating worms reality? I want to know so I can advise my vacation planner not to include that location on my next vacation.
Of course, France has been crossed off my list for years because of that thing they do with snails - eat them. The day I have difficulty differentiating between dietary delights and ordinary fishing bait is the day I fold my napkin and retire my knife and fork to the Smithsonian.
I don't mind too much if other people want to eat worms and snails and other such stuff, but I do not want to see it, especially when I am relaxing at night in front of the TV with the Mistress of the Parsonage and a bowl of popcorn. It sort of takes the "pop" out of my corn, if you know what I mean.
I think the TV programmers and producers are getting tired and bored with life and someone ought to tap them on the shoulders and tell them to come in out of the rain. These gurus of pop-culture have brought us, recently, game shows ranging from marriage to singing.
Recently they have given us The Last Comic Standing. My uncle Ed, who can burp the entire Star Spangled Banner, is funnier than what I've seen on this recent offering. I'm not sure the Last Comic Standing will be the funniest, just the last one standing which in and of itself is something, considering the premise of the show.
During my years as a minister, I have witnessed this trait among my ushers. The most important people in the church on any given Sunday are the ushers. Happy is the church that has several good ones. And when I say good, I mean the "last usher standing."
Ushers are the first to greet people when they come to church on Sunday. They give people the weekly bulletin, help them find suitable seating and assist in receiving the offering without dropping the offering plates.
The usher's motto is: A happy sheep is a fleeced sheep - whatever that means.
An usher's work is never quite done. For example, there should always be an usher standing at the back of the church sanctuary just in case there are latecomers or some emergency arises.
As I think of this important aspect of congregational ministry, my mind goes back several years to a particularly good usher that served our church. His name was Dennis.
Dennis was a committed Christian and nothing pleased him more than in serving wherever and whenever he could. He had the most gracious demeanor of any usher I have ever seen. Moreover, people liked him because he genuinely loved people.
By trade, Dennis was a farmer. All week he worked out in the fresh air and on Sunday's he reaped what he sowed. If you've ever worked out in the fresh air all week and then come inside for several hours you know exactly what I am getting at.
Although a good usher in every respect, Dennis had one minor flaw. He fell asleep on his feet too easily. And by too easily I mean that you could be talking with him one moment and the next moment he was asleep. This never bothered me until one fall Sunday.
As you know, the fall season is a hectic time for farmers. And Dennis had a large farm and was especially busy. Staunch Christian that he was, he never worked on Sunday if possible.
No matter what was going on, he was usually at his post come Sunday morning ushering people to their seats. He was the first one to church and the last one to leave.
The Sunday in question was stifling and the sanctuary was especially crowed for some special service, I've forgotten just what now. The service progressed beautifully and it came time for me to deliver my sermon. My favorite time of the week.
I had worked especially hard on my sermon during the week and looked forward to delivering it to the congregation. Just as I got to an important part of the discourse I distinctly heard, what I thought sounded like a snort.
When I'm preaching I don't pay much attention to distracting noises. A train could run down the aisle of the church and it wouldn't derail my preaching.
It wasn't too much longer when I heard a terrible crash and several screams of alarm throughout my flock. Not only had Dennis fallen asleep but also he had fallen down, smashing a small table with a flower vase on it.
The odd thing is, Dennis never woke up. He slept the sleep of the righteous and we, not knowing what else to do, let him sleep.
Men and women who can stand in the face of opposition are greatly needed today.
The Apostle Paul realized this in his day and gave this admonition, "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13 KJV.)
I like the old saying, "If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything."