Thursday, November 1, 2018

Fast Food vs Eternal Banquet. . .

Fast food has thoroughly overtaken the small city in which I live.  There is no shortage of places where you can go to eat in or drive up to a window and grab and go to be on your way.  Even those restaurants that normally fit the description of sit down eateries have a short lunch menu guaranteed to get you the food faster than the rest of the menu so you can dine in and be out in less than 30 minutes.  I understand the problem they face and commend their ingenuity for offering a choice to the harried consumer who must hurriedly eat and get back to work or off to an appointment.  All around me giant stores are offering to shop for me and bring it out to my car and load it up so I don't have to waste my time fighting an unyielding cart down aisle after aisle.  Some have gone it one better and will deliver it right to my door (albeit for a small fee).  Amazon continues to amaze me (though sometimes it is the thing I need that gets delayed and the thing I don't that shows up at my address a day or two after ordering).

It is no wonder then that when we walk through the door to the church, we find it hard to let go of the press of time and to judge what happens there by how long it all takes before we can get back to the stuff we really want to do.  Looking at the people whose cell phones still occupy much of their attention (in service and out, in Bible study and out), it is plain to see that we have more important things to do that sit in the pew or listen to a pastor or even taste the goodness of the Lord.  At least that is how it often seems!  I cannot think of many pastors who do not feel the constraint of time and who look at hymn choices based, in part, on how many stanzas will be sung or who plan for the liturgy with a view to the clock (lets move that baptism to after the service and trim the entrance rite and skip the Eucharistic prayer).  Even if a pastor does not bow down to the pressure to cut without pasting, every pastor I know feels the crunch, knows the limits to which he can test his people, and will be sensitive to it as much as he can -- in good conscience.  We have two services and a Sunday school/Bible study hour on Sunday morning and we know that time waits for no man.  Our services are typically 75-80 minutes.  That said, it is never good to determine what is good, right, and salutary simply on the basis of a clicking clock.

I have actually had people ask me what exactly they will be doing in heaven (as if I knew) because they were worried they just might be bored with the beatific vision and the eternal marriage supper of the Lamb.  Yup.  Bored with heaven and all its glory!  I suspect that more folks than the few brave ones who asked me about it actually have wondered about it themselves.  Who wants an eternal choir practice for an eternal worship service featuring an eternal sermon.  Gag.  How bad can hell be, really?  But that is the point isn't it.  Our preoccupation with time is not well answered by our ability to pack as many fun things as we are able into each day's schedule.  No, our issue with time is answered best by the day that does not end in night, by the life which does not fear or even know death, and by the glorious flesh and blood that do not grow weary of the things of God -- no, not ever.  So a little practice for eternity might not be all that bad.  If we can learn to ignore the distractions of this mortal life and to turn away from our self-obsessions and focus upon the Lord for an hour and a quarter or so, perhaps we just might learn to glory in the eternity beyond imagination, prepared by the Lord for those who love Him.

All Saints is the day we pause to remember the dead who died in Christ, big names and anonymous folks, whom the Lord remembers and with whom we await that grand and blessed day of reunion in which the Light never dims or sets.  And it is a good day to remember that just because food is fast does not make it good -- especially the Bread of Life!  Worship is not a pause, a time out from God for God, but the reason we are redeemed and the reason the redeemed of the Lord live (both now and eternally).  God's time is truly not ours, both in terms of his timing and eternity (which He knows better than we shall ever!).  Yet part what happens in the Divine Service is just that -- to learn God's time and to learn to love it.  So you won't find in me a voice of encouragement for those who think less is more, shorter is always better, and fast food is better than the Eternal Banquet.  So slow down.  Slow down, pastors, and do not rush God or His people.  Slow down, people, and put the watch aside at least for this moment when God both invites and makes it possible for us to stand before Him in the majesty of His mercy and grace.  There is fast food in hell and it is really good. . . but you have to wait forever and still you do not get it.

No comments: