A wide spot in my imagination.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Skipping Church

As I type this, the people of the church I serve are singing and praying and listening to the scripture and celebrating communion...and I am not there. I am skipping church. For most people, that's no big deal. Judging from attendance patterns, many people skip church. It's a little different for me: I'm the pastor of a church, so it's my usual role to be the for the singing, praying, listening, celebrating. So, I don't skip church too often.
And to be truthful I didn't take the day off, and I'm not playing hooky. Here's the deal: We have three worship services at our congregation. Most Sundays, I lead or take some active role in each of those three services. But this morning, for the 9:30 service my colleague here at UCC is preaching and leading worship. So, I find myself with an hour of nothing to do.
I thought about going to one of the adult groups. I thought about being in worship as a congregant. I thought about working on my sermon for next week. I thought about checking email.
But instead, I'm taking about eight minutes to type this, and I'm drinking a cup of coffee.
It's good to skip church. Let me explain that. For me it is good to skip church because church is what I do, it's my job. For most people it's good to actively engage in church because because it is not what they do all week. For most people, gathering at a church or temple or mosque or synagogue provides a refreshing break from the rest of life. And that is what is really good.
It's not about "skipping church." It's about taking a break, changing our patterns, rethinking our habits. Sometimes that is formalized as a sabbatical. Other times it's a nap on the couch with football on TV. The way the Book of Genesis tells it, even God took a break.
The Advent season is sort of like skipping church for me. That is, it's about change. It's about seeing the world in new ways and experiencing our faith in new ways.
Back to skipping church... Lest anyone think I'm a real slacker, I probably should say I've already preached and led worship at one service this morning, and I've got one more to go. At those services, the scripture reading includes an interesting little blurb. In Matthew 11: 18 and 19, Jesus says that people called him a drunkard and a glutton because he hung out and ate with sinners and tax collectors. Now, there's a slacker for you. That's "skipping church," or at least changing our expectations, seeing things differently, having new insight.
At Christmas-time we sing about "sweet little Jesus boy," not "sweet old drunkard guy." Maybe we need to take a break from some our of holiday traditions to re-think them. Maybe we need to do things differently so we see things differently.
Maybe I should write some new carols about Jesus as glutton and drunkard, party-guy and friend to ne'er-do-wells.
Or, maybe I'll just go back to drinking coffee and skipping church for a few more minutes.

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