Someone pointed out to me yesterday that I haven’t blogged in a while so, I’ll address a statement I overheard last weekend at a picnic.
Anyone with children or teens will tell you that their kids think church is boring. In fact, many adults think much the same. It is boring, long, not relevant, confusing, poorly done and a there are people including some clergy who don’t beleive in everything the church teaches.
So lets make a list of what is wrong with church; The music is too old. The music is too new. I hate classical music. I hate rock music. I hate organ music. I hate piano music. I hate guitars. The music is too fast or too slow. Too loud or too soft. The musicians make too many mistakes. The choir can’t sing. The soloists are amateurish. They hire professionals. The reader reads too fast, too slow, too soft or mispronounces words. They don’t know how to dress. The Eucharistic Minister is living with someone and is thusly a hypocrite. The church focuses too much on youth and ignores the needs of the older population. Our church has no youth. The homily is too childish, too heady, too preachy, too long, too philosophical, too boring, not relevant. The bible is all about 2,000 year old dead people whose life and culture are irrelevant to me today. They take in all that money and I get nothing out of it. The pews are too hard. They put in cushions and destroyed the acoustics. They argue over money, kneelers, statues, the parking lot or they have too many committee meetings. The place looks like a dusty old museum. The place looks like a living room. It’s too bright. Too dark. We have stained glass windows which are too expensive to maintain. We don’t have any stained glass windows.
Did I hit your issue with the church? Do you have more? We humans are very good at making excuses and externalizing our problems and laying blame. In reality, the problem with church isn’t out there but is actually within the individual.
If you exercised for 30 minutes a day for a year, would you feel better? Certainly. Then why don’t you do it? The common answers are that you don’t feel like working out or you don’t have time.
If you were to grow your own food and prepare your meals with a focus on nutrition, after a year, would you be a more healthy person? Then why don’t you do it? The answer may be that you don’t have time. It is easier to go out for dinner, buy microwavable food or go to a drive-thru.
If you were to go to bed early and get all the sleep your body requires, would you feel better during the day? Then why don’t you do it? You don’t have time or there are good TV shows on late at night.
Would you like to spend more time with the ones you love but you work all day and when you come home at night you are too exhausted and you find that you are actually giving them the least productive and most tired part of your time? So why do you work? You need money to give them things? In fifty years, will your kids wish that their dad gave them more things or that they wish Dad spent more quality time with them?
You know all the correct answers to those questions but you don’t do them. Why? If you purchased a $500,000 Lamborghini, would you drive it down a street filled with pot holes? Would you drive it down muddy dirt roads? Would you take it through a commercial car wash where the water is recycled dirt from previous cars, where the sponges can have the dirt and grit embedded in them from previous cars and the boys drying the car at the end are wiping you car’s finish with used rags? No, you would probably wash it by hand yourself and dry every inch of it by hand with a chamois. Why don’t we treat our families and bodies like a Lamborghini? Are they not worth $500,000. We don’t have the time.
Church is only one hour long. If you were to hear something in church which you could take with you and it could somehow make you a better person in every aspect of your life, wouldn’t it be worth the hour?
So, the first thing to do when you go to church on Sunday is to block out all those external excuses, prejudices and dislikes. Say a short prayer asking God to teach you something that day to change your life. God doesn’t want your money, He wants you to live a happy and holy life. So, ask Him. Then sit back and listen. Listen to the music, listen to the readings, listen to the homily, listen to the silence, listen to the prayers. Chances are that within, say the Eucharistic Prayer, is the answer to something which needs your attention and can change your life, or a piece of it. If this you do, chances are that church won’t be as boring as you thought and you may actually learn to enjoy everything you thought you hated.
If you were at a family gathering and hung out at the kids table, it could be boring. If you sat with the old people, it might be boring. If you played a game or watched TV or sat and ate, it could be boring. But chances are you wouldn’t be bored because you are spending time with people you love. You share stories, food, problems and solutions. When Grandpa tells the same old story about what happened to him 60 years ago, you listen as if it were the first time. Why? Because we block out everything we dislike about these rituals and people and focus only on what we can take from the experience because, we love these people. Ask any grandparent who sits through their grandchild’s first piano recital and they will tell you it was beautiful.
If Steve Jobs or some billionaire were to offer a free seminar this weekend and tell you how to be happy and successful in your life, would you go? Probably. If God, whether you beleive in Him or not, were to speak this weekend and tell you how to be happy and successful in your life, would you go? Probably. Well, guess what? He is speaking this weekend for one hour. All you need to do is go, block out everything you dislike about the hour, the people and what they do or don’t do, and listen. If you listen, if you TRULY listen, you will hear something which can change you. After doing this every week for several weeks, I guarantee that you will be a better person. You will be closer to your family, God, yourself and be happier with your life.
For an added bonus, exercise, eat right and get plenty of sleep. Then spend quality time with those you love. In fifty years, nobody will remember that you showed up to work on time. They may remember that you were cheerful, reverent, happy, giving, a great listener or sacramental.
Listen . . .