Some Sundays, I confess, I wonder why I bother attending church. Not because I don’t love God, like the people, or appreciate the pastor. Not even because it’s inconvenient to do so.
I’ve spent most Sunday mornings of my life in a church pew. But I confess I’ve developed a bad habit, perhaps the cardinal sin of churchgoers.
I nod off. Often. Right in the middle of the sermon. Not every week, but many. Just ask the Preacher or our son-in-law, the other preacher in the family. They have an eagle viewpoint from their position on the platform.
My nods have little to do with the sermons in process. I’ve had that snoozing habit for decades. I can read in bed (lying prone) for hours at night (when I should be sleeping) but whenever I sit down to listen to someone up front speaking – preacher or teacher, lecturer or moderator – my body hits the snooze button.
First to exit is the tracking level. Second, the eyelids droop, quickly followed by the chin, which descends almost to my chest. Sometimes I’m saved by a series of sudden upright jerks and bug-eyed stares. But I also bear permanent dents in my side where relatives and friends have stabbed me back to awareness.
I feel sorry for those people. Looking at it from their perspective, the decision to poke or not to poke can’t be easy. A pew-sleeper runs the risk of toppling forward or sideways. But a sleeping person suddenly jabbed may just as likely leap up and declare something entirely inappropriate for the setting. Loudly.
In spite of all that, the best parts of sixty-odd years of sermons have nestled deep in my spirit. Though I couldn’t quote any of them, I’m glad I heard them.
That reminds me of a related anecdote a reader emailed me the other day. Apparently someone sent a letter to the newspaper editor, complaining that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
He wrote: “I’ve gone for 30 years now, and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. For the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. I think I’m wasting my time and the preachers and priests are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all”.
His letter began an ongoing controversy in subsequent “Letters to the Editor” columns. Finally, weeks later, a reader submitted this: “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.
“But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.
“Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”