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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Church is a Waste of Time!

Bet you don't expect a priest to say something like that, do you? Church is a waste of time.

I have heard lots of people say it, young and old, mostly disgruntled but sometimes seriously trying and just frustrated. Church is a waste of time. It is true. It is a waste of time. It is intended to be. The problem is we  have a hard time wasting time with God and for God's sake. We really do not mind wasting time in general.

Deuteronomy 5:12 states Observe the sabbath day to make it holy, as YHWH your God commanded you. Rabbi Friedman makes a big deal of the first word "observe." He points out how different this command is here from Exodus 20:8 (at Sinai God says "remember the sabbath" and the reason is because God rested on the seventh day). Doing a word search on observe we find it is the Hebrew word shamar

It means to keep, guard, watch, give heed and it is used the first time in Genesis 2:15 (The Lord God put man in the Garden to tend/watch/keep it). Soon after the first couple melt down, God sets an angel with a fiery sword to watch/keep the tree of life and keep people away from it. It next appears in the mouth of Cain (am I my brother's keeper?) as his paltry defense before God's inquiry. Then it is used by God in discussion with Abraham that he has kept covenant and needs to continue (Gen 17:9-10)

In ancient rabbinic interpretation other uses of a word were often seen as connecting the text. Keeping, guarding, watching over Sabbath means a focused commitment to rest. It is connected with key stories of God's covenant(s) with various humans and all of us.

Rest. Doing nothing, hanging with God. A time to repair and renew. Wasting time. Not being razor focused on achievement and production. Not seeking to get something. Just being.

"Sabbath" (in the Christian twist on this) is a day set aside for prayer and reflection, turning toward God and worshipping. Lot's of people say they don't get anything from church. I say, good. That is not the purpose. You go to church to GIVE. It really isn't about you after all. It is about creating space, doing nothing but thanks and praise, to listen and to offer God a chance to crack your well defended soul and maybe do some communing with you. If it is unproductive that is fine. Thanks and praise are not really about producing!

Sometimes as a father I have the chance to sit with a sleeping child, or even hold one. It is not terribly productive and as I age it hurts my elbows and wrists. The sleeper does not bond with me, sleepers are notoriously oblivious to things. What does happen is we are together. Not talking. Not sharing. Just me loving you, little sleeper. Sometimes, many times, inviting God in for a blessing or two. And the blessing is just being with God together, wasting time.

The thing is, it is wasting time moments that are sometimes the greatest moment.

So if you ever have the urge to tell me, Sundays and church are a waste of time understand that I agree. I just think wasting time with God is a wonderful waste of time; wonderful and life-giving and tied up with the purpose of life. Maybe I am oblivious, too, as He holds me in His arms and just loves me beyond my knowing and experiencing. Maybe that makes God happy. If it does then wasting time may not be a waste of time....

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