Friday, March 26, 2010

Sleeping in Church

Have you ever fallen asleep in church? The sanctuary is warm, the prayer isn't too loud, the pew is comfortable enough, and you haven't had nearly enough caffeine or quite enough sleep. Your eyes start to close, your chin starts to drop, snap awake because you are the preacher, and, after all, they pay you to stay awake during your own sermon. Someone has to be awake during your sermon.

I don't think that I have ever fallen asleep in church at least during a service in which I have a role. But I have nodded off at the movies, during the ballet, in front of the TV, and in any number of other places. My slumber has had no connection to the quality of the dialogue, the dexterity of the dancers, or the intricacies of the plot. I was exhausted and I fell asleep. It was as simple as that.

So I don't take it personally when someone falls asleep during my preaching. But I wondered this week if it ever happened to Jesus. Maybe at the Sermon on the Mount as people sat on their blankets. After all, it was a long day. And I remembered that it did happen to Paul. He was preaching on and on well after midnight when a young man after Eutychus not only fell asleep but fell from his perch on the third floor and was presumed to be dead. Whether Paul resuscitated him or whether he wasn't really dead isn't quite clear. But after a break to eat, Paul was undeterred and kept preaching until daybreak. The family of Eutychus was thankful that they were able to get him out of there alive. And the folks at New Horizons Christian Church where I preach get antsy if the service runs over an hour. I should remind them that their goal should be to get out of the sanctuary alive.

A minister was once criticized for dozing off during marital counseling. The couple was upset, but I sympathized with the pastor. She must have been having a long day and needed a nap.

I recall that my father often fell asleep in his recliner. He worked long hours at the steel mill, came home to eat his dinner, then went to his chair. It was his throne. It was his well-deserved place of rest. He had earned the right to be there. And, man, could he snore.

So I am glad to see everyone who comes to worship at our church on a Sunday both those who stay awake and those who fall asleep. I am grateful that all of them have made the effort to get there while others have stayed at home. And if you find yourself nodding off one Sunday in our sanctuary, we'll try to keep the noise down so that you can get the rest that you deserve.