Thursday, May 28, 2015
The worship of the sleepy. . .
Children belong in church. Even sleeping. We do them a grave disservice when we shuffle them off to a nursery or stay at home because we fear they might make a little fuss or fall asleep anyway (how many parents have secretly wished their infants and toddlers would sleep away their time at church!). Yes, it satisfies those who seek order in everything and those among us who think we cannot think without absolute quiet but there is something sad about a completely quiet church -- devoid of muted sound of children curious, interested, distracted, unhappy, singing, and, yes, sleeping.
The worship of the sleepy is not without its value. I don't know about you but some of my best prayers are prayed in the weary hours of the night when rest overtakes me before the "amen" is said. For that is exactly how we come to the Lord -- weary with the heavy burdens of this mortal life after the fall and in desperate need of the rest of a clear conscience through forgiveness and the peace of Christ to rule our hearts. We are too often kept awake by the very things the liturgy is designed to ease -- the burdens of our shameful thoughts, words, and deeds and the fears of things we cannot control but only dread. Rest is the outcome of faith that cannot see tomorrow but knows the good and gracious will of God witnessed in Christ our Savior will not and cannot disappoint us.
The child sprawled out in the pew blissfully sleeping away or dozing in the arms of the parent has exactly this -- rest. The arms of mom or dad become the arms of our Savior who gathers His lambs in His arms and carries them home. Perhaps we object so to these sleepy children because we do not know such rest and we doubt the wisdom and power of the Lord and of His grace to answer the dreads and wounds of our mortal lives. In any case, these children witness what it is that we seek from the Lord -- such clear consciences that we can sleep in peace and such rest that we know real refreshment of heart, mind, and body as a result.
I well recall one of our members who came to church after a twelve hour shift and a long commute at the end of that shift. There was hardly a Sunday in which sleep did not over take them at one point in the Divine Service or another. Some might have said "Go home, sleep, this is doing you no good...." but not me. The worship of the sleepy belongs with the rest of us who are wide awake. I am not advocating napping during church (at least for adults) but I certainly get why children would feel safe, secure, and comfortable in the liturgy. It is the safest and most secure place for us all. Hopefully we all grow ever more comfortable in the rhythm of the ordinary, punctuated by the changes of the pericopes and the variable parts of the Divine Service, within the beat of the church year, with the goal of a clear conscience and perfect peace.