Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Sanitized Sanctuary. . . the homogenized Christian life. . .

In many respects we have placed personal comforts and desires front and center -- even before the Lord and His gifts.  We worship best when the temperature is mechanically kept at 72.5 degrees, when the humidity is below 40%, when small children neither fidget or make noise, when we have a water bottle or Starbucks near at all times, when hymns are drawn from the mainstream of what everyone knows, when stanzas are kept to no more than 3, when sermons conclude within 10 minutes (preferably on a happy note the way the news ends with the newest cutest YouTube video that is all the rage). . .  I could go on.  You don't want me to. . . neither do I.

Imagine how it was possible for folks to worship before a sound system conditioned what hit our ears or heat kept us toasty in winter or the AC kept us cool as cucumbers in summer or pews were padded (or replaced with individual well padded seating that reclines and has cup holders) or pastors realized that after 40 minutes folks may not be listening with their full attention or nurseries kept fussy and noisy kids far from the worshiping congregation. . .  Because that is how Luther found church on Sunday morning and most folks before and after him (at least until the more modern age of the last 100 years or more).

How did we get to be so preoccupied with creature comforts and a sanitized setting for church?  How did we grow so narrow minded and intolerant of anything that makes us uncomfortable?  I wish I could go back in time and prevent it.

I was speaking to a group of grandmothers about marriage and mentioned that the first great commission was to go and multiply and fill the earth.  Now you might think that grandmas would stand up and cheer since they live for grandchildren, right?  Wrong.  Instead I got an icy stare from some and some bitter comments from others "what about those who cannot have children?  How do you think they feel?"  So, we cannot encourage couples to have children because some cannot (never mind that more of them are simply choosing not to have them). . .  When did we become so sensitive to our feelings that to affirm something not everyone might have was being rude or callous or harsh?

I dare say that there was a time when truth trumped feelings, when the norm was said even when some were not able to live up to it, when we did not wear our feelings on our shirtsleeves and took offense at everything we did not like.  I wish I could remember that day!  If the pastor looks at us in the wrong way or someone forgets our names or someone fails to acknowledge who we are or what we have done or has the nerve to disagree with us, we pack up our toys and leaves.  Every pastor and every congregation knows the reality of this and wrestles with the line between integrity and pandering.  What has made us so fragile and weak that we must have a sanitized sanctuary on Sunday morning and live a homogenized life. . . or else?

Just wondering. . . aloud. . . today. . . And for those who think me rude, I am not immune from these self-absorbed feelings either.  That does not make it good or right, however.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

We all have grown accustomed to comfort zones, and it does often impact on our spiritual life too. But I think if we stay closer to God, and as an optimist, I think many Christians do, we are allowed to enjoy some pleasures without letting them become idols. When we work on our attitudes, and remember to appreciate the things God has given us, we can avoid being spoiled by too much, and we can avoid feeling we should expect them as a matter of our right. An "attitude of gratitude" to God marks the true believer. Always cognizant of our mortality and the shortness of life, of our own limitations and weaknesses, our blessings and redemption through Christ....we must continually remind ourselves to think and walk wisely.