Thursday, May 2, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
To go or not to go – that was the question
Back in October, I had a Sunday with no ministerial obligations. When Sunday morning rolled around, I found myself facing the dilemma of all who are not paid a salary to be at church on Sabbath mornings: to go or not to go. That was the question!
You see, preachers do not normally have the option that is before Mr. or Mrs. Every Member. Ministers have to go to church, whether we feel like it or not, and contrary to the popular myth, preachers, like everyone else, have days when we do not feel particularly like going to church, or at least when we do not feel very confident about the merits of the sermon to be preached! But if we ministers slept in every Sunday we felt like it, there would soon be a committee knocking at the door, wanting an explanation.
On this particular Sunday, however, there would be no one to whom I must answer if I did not attend divine service. No one in Holly Springs would know, and I could relax.
So, playing the part of Mr. Every Member, I slept as late as I wanted—consequently missing Sunday School, ate a hearty breakfast, read the Sunday paper, all the while mentally rehearsing the reasons for and against going to church.
I looked for rain. No rain!
I checked to see if it was too cold. It was warmer!
I checked to see if it was too late. Plenty of time!
Perhaps someone would stop by. No one in 500 miles!
I checked to see if I felt “spiritual.” Not really, but all the more reason I ought to go to church.
One by one the excuses failed me. So I put on my good clothes and went to church. I suppose it made my mother happy.
Being a ballgame Sunday, with the regular minister away, the church crowd was pretty sparse. There was what my fellow minister David Shepperson used to call “a lot of lumber” in between the people and the preacher, some 10 or 15 pews ahead.
My thoughts turned to the church of my childhood. I remembered how we boys used to sit on the now-empty front pew and play a sort of musical chairs game during the organ prelude. The object was to get up from the pew, raising as little adult notice as possible and stroll down the center aisle to the back of the church for a bulletin, or a visit to the water fountain, returning and sitting down on the outside end, thus causing all the others to scoot over.
The person on the center end then made a similar trip, and so the game would continue until the organist played the Doxology or one of the parents caught on and came down front to sit with us. Either way, the person at the end of the pew when time ran out lost the game, and usually ended up next to somebody’s father “sitting guard” over our group. (I had a strict grandmother who believed families should sit together, so that I usually watched these proceedings from five rows back.)
I thought about my grandmother who didn’t let me cut up with the other children before the service. I remembered how she used to help me prepare my Sunday School lesson, and the good dinners she always prepared for us after church. Grandmother was nearly deaf, and didn’t really hear a sermon the last 20 years of her life. But she was always in her pew. She always said she enjoyed the music, and that there was more to church than the things you could hear.
I thought about my father. In early manhood, he missed a Sunday now and then. But not in his later years. Once when he was home from the hospital during his last illness, Mother found him struggling to dress for church. She urged him to save his strength, but he responded, “It is Sunday, what else would I do?” What else indeed? That was his last Sunday.
The service was nearly over—True, the sermon did not contain stunning revelations, and the choir’s anthem was appreciated but not memorable. But the sacred Word had been read and preached, public and secret prayers had been offered, and God’s praises had been sung.
Church is a “one generation to another” kind of thing, and I hope some Holly Springs parents my age will do some hard thinking about the kind of memories they are providing for their own children.
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