As I was sitting in church yesterday and, as usual, my mind began to wander to a chosen subject for the day's meditation. The topic I settled on to spend a while thinking about was the topic "Why do people go to Church?" As I look around, I wonder about people who sleep most or all of the way through the meeting. I was reading somewhere that if you put each fist under the opposite armpit while folding your arms, one can sleep sitting up without fear of toppling over. I am afraid to doze off because I might speak words out loud in my sleep or even, heaven forbid, snark. For the uninformed, snarking, which by the way is in the dictionary, I looked it up, for all practical purposes is a hybrid combination of a snort and a snore and is terribly annoying.
Some people apparently go to church to get a back rub or massage as they lean over and the adjacent person begins rubbing up and down, back and forth, up into the nape of the neck, on and on and on. If one is sitting behind a back massager and rubber, needless to say it is extremely difficult to focus on the message from the pulpit even if you wanted to. Others spend their time reading scripture or lesson manuals or, heaven help us, checking their Blackberries or other PDAs. Others, heaven help us, even cuddle and we wish they would go home, or put their heads in someone else's lap to take a little nap.
Keeping a family of children quiet for a little over an hour is difficult enough at best, but some children require five or six bathroom trips before an hour's meeting is over. Cheerios, Fruit Loops, coloring books, story books, and other diversions are employed. I can't talk too much in this category, as I well recall the day that our two oldest boys got into a fight in church and one gave the other a bloody nose. One of my lifetime friends from my home town, Wayne Lynn, wrote a little piece in the Salt Lake Deseret News about his efforts to get young children to be more reverent in church. When two of them got into a fight, Wayne asked what the problem was. The problem was, one of the boys told him, was that they were fighting over who was the most reverent. But we take children to church because we know that, even at a very young age, they need to develop some kind of spiritual anchor, ornery or not, and we all endure whatever we have to endure until they grow up a little bit, usually sometime in their twenties or so.
Some go to church because they feel they "have to", that they are expected and even commanded to attend. Some listen attentively, some daydream and watch the clock or lean over and prop their chin in their hands. Some attend to meet friends or to fulfill church assignments of various kinds.
But as I look around the congregation, I know that someone is waiting for a biopsy report, and that another has just had a stent implanted and is worried about how that is going to work out. Another is a recovered alcoholic, and others have children who have had or who are having drug problems or other disciplinary problems. Some have or have had serious marital problems and have been divorced, leaving children to be nurtured by multiple households. I see one person who has never recovered from the complications of a knee replacement and still must use a walker and a wheelchair. Another had a recent stroke and valiantly goes ahead. A young woman had serious spinal surgery. Others have recently had or are anxiously awaiting results of medical tests of all kinds, nervously wondering how things will turn out. I know some are struggling financially, especially in the recent mortgage disaster, and that others have precarious job situations. Many wonder how they are going to get by, how they can deal with errant children, how they can keep up their faith in the face of disastrous and frightening medical procedures and diagnoses.
These are the people who go to church. They are you and me. Whether some are willing to admit it or not, everyone needs comforting and a source of strength in order to persevere and make it through the coming weeks and months and years. Some people feel they get more inspiration from an hour in the mountains than they do in church. That may be, but there is no one else to put an arm around your shoulder and give you a lift up with a smile and some words of encouragement when you are alone. Even those who may gripe about sitting through church, and if we are all honest, I am sure that more of us than we are willing to admit fall into this category at least some times in our lives, are looking for some solace, some hope, some understanding of why we have to go through so many trials, aches, pains, and so much fear. These are some of the reasons why we go to church. And those who don't go to church often end up wishing they had since everyone is looking for the same answers and seeking some source of strength to keep going. And beyond searching for our own answers and sources of strength, we ultimately find that such strength and such answers come from turning outward from ourselves and toward those who need us. As we reach out to others, our own dilemmas seem more trivial, more manageable, and hope for all of us fills us and comforts us.
I never expected to write a sermon, but there it is. I suppose I wrote it to myself as much as to anyone else. I could use a good sermon and a wake-up call.