Imagine yourself, on a Friday night, walking up to church. Someone mentioned there was a special vespers service going on. You make your way inside, and open the door to the sanctuary. You gaze towards the front and see some kind of video being projected on the wall. You look again, and it seems to be some animated film. Then it dawns on you….this is a scene from “Despicable Me.” You probably found the film to be amusing when your first saw it, but now you’re in church on a Friday night. That just happened.
I must admit I was greatly shocked. I began this vast internal conflict. Was this the right place? Yes, this was the right place. Could it possibly be, say, a Thursday night instead of being Friday night? No, indeed it is Friday. Then why are we watching Despicable Me? After a moment, the clip ended, and some blurb about following a bunch of rules came up, then something about the Sabbath not just being some rule…
Is this what we do now? We play random, secular clips in CHURCH on SABBATH and try to pull some spiritual lessons out of it? Is it because the simple, plain truths of the Bible don’t engage our minds that we turn to the stars of the screen to point us in the right direction since they hold our attention? Mercy. Only one word come to mind. Profane. And it seems to come to mind with greater frequency.
Just last week, while in Alabama, I attended Sabbath School–something that I rarely do. I was sitting, attempting to listen to the teacher as she went through her thoughts on the lesson (which reminded me why I really don’t dig Sabbath School much). In a few moments I heard a distinct sound coming from behind me. In the row directly behind me, some young adults were talking. And when I say talking, I mean TALKING, not whispering, not muttering, but a full blown, proper sort of talking that you do when there is absolutely nothing of importance going on around you. I thought to myself, “Give them a minute. They’ll finish.” After a few minutes, I realized this was not just an exchange. This was a conversation. I gave a few more moments as my indignation burned within me. After 10 minutes, I could no longer hold my peace. I turned around and said to them directly, “Do you mind talking your conversation somewhere else? I’m trying to listen.” The guy says, “Sorry.” But get this….the girl looks at me like I’M the one at fault with this expression that said, “If you’re trying to listen, you should go somewhere else.”
These things seem to happen more! I listen to the pure cacophony of sound that fills sanctuaries between Sabbath School and the Divine Service. I behold the frustration as leaders attempt to quell the masses in order to BEGIN the service. I watch after church, and children run through the sanctuary as if it is their personal playground…running, shouting, walking on and jumping over the pews. I hold my peace, I know not how.
What is wrong with our churches? What is wrong with us? Am I just showing up to the wrong places at the wrong times, or have you beheld the same? Does it vex you? What have you done? What can you do? What will you do?
I commented to a friend last night that a famine is coming…not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11). This must be the famine. The result of the famine is always hunger, but how much longer, brothers and sisters, must this famine continue before we fully hunger and thirst after righteousness? What has happened to us? Why have we not hungered more? I speak as one guilty.
How long, oh Lord, how long?