Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tolerances. . .

I don't fly often -- every couple of years or so.  Most of my trips are by car.  When I go to visit my brother, parents, and middle child in Nebraska, there is no direct flight.  I drive the fourteen hours or so -- it is not much longer than flying (by the time I get to the airport in Nashville 2 hours early, layover in Chicago, and then drive the 3 hours home from the airport in Omaha, flying is not quick or easy).  Besides, driving gives me the opportunity to stop when I wish, stretch my legs without bothering the passengers next to me, and conversing freely with the other folks in the car.

My recent flight to and from LAX was not bad but it was not the enjoyable flight to which I once looked forward 20-30 years ago.  Yet, every plane was packed full of people -- not a free seat anywhere on the aircraft.  We made our way through endless lines (check in, checking bags, security, boarding, etc.) until we found ourselves butt to butt with strangers for four hours or more.  The flight was bumpy so drinks (free or purchased) were iffy.  The delicious snacks offered little choice and the quantity did little to hold our hunger in abeyance.  The cost was reasonable but not cheap.  Yet everyone fought to get on the plane, get a seat, and ride in intimate contact with strangers for more than four hours.  Children cried, some people talked too loud, a few snored, some clicked away at their electronic devices, and others tried to tune us all out with music piped into their ear buds.  We all put up with it to get where we wanted to go.  It was not ideal and everyone of us made sacrifices but we got there.

Increasingly, the opposite is true of the way folks approach Sunday morning in church.  It seems we are less tolerant of any inconvenience, restriction of choice, or compromise of comfort than ever before.  In my own parish I hear lots of complaints (it is too hot, it is too cool, it was too long, there were too many noisy kids, too much talking from the adults, too much music, too much preaching, etc...  We complain about the restrooms, about the coffee or the lack of it, the way somebody looked at us or didn't look at us, the people we did not want to sit with, the music was not our preference in style or content, etc...  In other words, we will tolerate all sorts of things we do not like in order to fly and arrive at some destination for business or pleasure but we cannot ignore any inconvenience or make any compromise of comfort or be denied any preference in order to get to heaven.  Why?  I wish I knew. . .

Could it be that we are more focused in getting from one earthly destination to another than we are on getting to the heavenly future prepared and promised for us in Christ?  Has the earthly side of our existence as the people of God become so important and so central to how we see things that we no longer yearn for, seek after, and desire the heavenly future for which Christ died and into which we were baptized?

All I am saying is that we tolerate all sorts and kinds of unpleasant and inconvenient things in order to fly from Nashville to LA and back home again but we get so very touchy about the creature comforts of Sunday morning that this discontent is often the only thing we get out of it all. . .

2 comments:

Janis Williams said...

Seems like we're more about what we receive as relates to our physical comfort, not our salvation or the forgiveness of sins. If I really gave serious thought about what is coming to me for my oomfort in the Divine Service, I would be unfeeling, impervious, to anr physical discomforts.

Paul Becker said...

A fantastic sermon illustration for this Advent/Christmas season in particular as we are all focused on our wish lists, etc. instead of on what God has promised to freely give us.