When You Want to Sneak Out Between Hymns
by Donna Morton
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What do you think about opera?
Some people are so moved by a Pavarotti-like voice that tears are certain to fill their eyes. Other people cry at opera for other reasons, and are so moved to misery that they’d rather sleep on nails than sit through The Marriage of Figaro.
I’ve only attended one opera and it was because two girlfriends and I got free tickets to what felt to be the longest opera in history. On it dragged, and worse, was presented in Italian. Sub-titles were given, but we were sitting under the theater’s balcony where some fancy trim work blocked our view of those ever-important titles.
Lost like balls in tall grass, we could only laugh when others laughed, clap when they clapped and ooh when they oohed. I can’t give you even a short synopsis of this opera as I’ve no clue what it was about.
One of my girlfriends was as bonkers-bored as I was; the other friend was perched on the edge of her seat, eyes as glossy as the glaze on a Bundt cake. Clearly, she was mesmerized by the activities on stage—and because we call came in one car, this meant sneaking out wasn’t an option.
At least I had one partner in boredom and we passed the time by fidgeting. Unfortunately, we also “got tickled”, meaning we were slapped with the overwhelming urge to laugh at inappropriate times. Suppressing the giggles was like trying to hold back a tidal wave with water volleyball net. We coughed, sniffled and gulped for air, activities that drew sharp looks from people sitting nearby. One woman firmly ordered us to:
There was nothing I could do except leave the theater. Pretending to need a drink of water, I excused myself through 15 pairs of legs and sought refuge in the lobby, where I vowed to never again indulge myself in “A Night at the Opera.”
Years have passed since that waste of an evening. Today, I truly do appreciate the sheer power and beauty of opera, but it was a long time coming. Reflecting on this, I’m reminded of how negative experiences have caused some people to have a disinterest in church.
That’s not good, and I think my pastor best explains why:
“Whatever you think about church,” he warns, “is usually what you think about God.”
Well, some people find church to be a yawn-fest. Others think it’s full of judgmental, humorless hypocrites, while others view it as a fund raiser for the collection plate. Then there are those who see it as a house of rigid rules and requirements, or a place where teaching is vague, confusing and raises more questions than it gives answers. Finally, there are those whose church experiences have been downright scary.
This is really too bad—because none of those churchy ideas are accurate portrayals of our Lord.
Some people do attend church, but it proves to be an attempt to find a message squeezed between the sit-now-stand then-sing-that-sign-up-for-everything-and-pass-the-plate activities. Instead of growing and thriving in God’s Word, they fidget and play follow-the leader by responding when and how others respond. Sometimes they’re clueless as to what was preached, and couldn’t give a sermon recap if their lives depended on it.
According to the Bible, we should be getting a lot more out of church than that.
Acts 2:42 teaches that Biblical doctrine, fellowship, prayer and observance of the Lord’s supper are among the purposes and activities of the church. When implemented and followed correctly, such things should keep us grounded in faith (Ephesians 4:14) and enjoying an environment where believers are devoted to and honoring of each other (Romans 12:10). We’ll instruct one another and treat each other with kindness, compassion, encouragement and love. (Romans 15:14, Ephesians 4:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and 1 John 3:11).
That sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it? If our present church is truly reflecting Him, we’re probably attending because we want to, not because we “should” or because it’s expected. We want to hear God’s Word and learn all there is to learn about applying His teachings to our lives. We desire the fellowship of those who wish to mirror Christ’s character.
When it comes to church, do you want to enter through the doors, or are you looking for the quickest exit?
What DO you think about church?
c. Donna G. Morton May 2008
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Your humorous lead-in was an interesting way to get your very important points across. I enjoyed your article very much and appreciated the message.