Today I had an early start. In general, I try to keep my Saturday nights calm as my Sundays are very busy and high-energy. But today – well, hockey happened. As a proud Canadian, and a hockey fan, I was going to do as much as possible to NOT miss out watching the Olympic men’s gold game!
I planned it out, and I’m far enough west that (so long as the game didn’t go into overtime) I could watch the game AND get to church on time. Just barely. (Thereby proving Ron MacLean wrong – we had full pews and I got to watch the game – but yay Ron for thinking of us!!)
So, despite a late night with a pastoral call, I set my alarm for 5 minutes before the puck dropped. Thankful for tech, I had my laptop beside me (NOT normal) and I just rolled over and clicked on the CBC stream. Hockey in bed – bliss. The intermissions were filled with frantic coffee making, showering, sermon printing, etc. I was texting and chatting with city friends in bars (oi, beer at 6am is NOT my thing!) And with the win, I was out the door like a Crosby breakaway.
So here I sit, at the end of the day, exhausted. Sundays take a lot of energy at the best of times, so getting up early and being rushed wasn’t the wisest decision. But was it worth it? Absolutely. All of us who were up early agree: it was definitely worth it.
This comes at a stark contrast to a different conversation I’ve been having today: Church Time. In this wider parish, we have (minimum) 3 Sunday services, and the communities rotate worship times every 4 months. That change will take place again next Sunday; there’s often one community rejoicing to be coming into the coveted 11.30 time slot, while another almost grieves that it will get the ‘early’ service. (Irony: 9.30 is still considered late for the farmers, but painfully early for a lot of townies. At the same parish.)
It’s at these time changes when I start getting excuses. The “I’d come to church BUT…” lines. Some of my favourites: BUT 7.30pm service is too late; BUT evening service doesn’t fit with my supper plans; BUT I don’t want to get up for 9.30; BUT I’d rather sleep in; BUT it’s the only day I can get my housework done; BUT I’d be too tired to really pray; BUT BUT BUT.
I have to admit, I don’t have much sympathy for the excuses. (Of course, there are always reasons why people can’t make it to church; life happens. Reasons are reasonable, excuses are generally weak.) I once had an excuse-maker get about three words from the end of their sentence when it dawned on them that complaining about time to me wasn’t necessarily going to get the desired effect – I’m worshiping and providing leadership at all the Sunday services, plus traveling over 100km in there too. (Suddenly showing up for one service wasn’t quite as onerous by comparison!)
The base of this, as I see it, is priority. For me, church – the community gathered in worship – is a priority. And I would hope that for the folks coming together as that community that they too would see it as a priority – or at least be honest if it is not. For someone to say that 9.30 is too early for worship doesn’t work the same day that person has gone to a pub at 5.30 to watch a hockey game. It’s just a hockey game, which we all knew would be repeated several times over the day (Admittedly it was a good game to watch, but still!)
I’d like to imagine a church community where common worship was their priority. Where God outranked sports or sleeping in. I’m not entirely sure what that church would look like; I’m not sure the world has ever experienced a group of people who all had that level of commitment and priority. But I’d still like to imagine it.
How do we build that type of community? How do we encourage and support that focus of priority?