Do you treat your church like a health club, or a lamp?
A fairly random and cryptic question, I’ll admit. But please stay with me.
First, the health club:
As übercomedian Jerry Seinfeld very cleverly states in his book SeinLanguage, “You go to the health club, you see all these people and they’re working out; they’re training, they’re getting in shape. But nobody’s really getting in shape for anything. The only reason that you’re getting in shape is so you can get through the workout. So we’re working out, so that we’ll be in shape, for when we have to do our exercises. That’s comedy.”
If we’re not careful, that’s what church can be like for us.
We can fall into the trap of behaving like we think the purpose of participating in church is to be a better church participant – that once we’ve got the routines and rituals down pat, we’ve arrived.
But nowhere in the Book of Leviticus did Moses command, ‘Thou shalt reciteth the Nicene Creed so many times that thou memorizeth it without even trying.’ Jesus never said, ‘Blessed are those who know what page Eucharistic Prayer No. 3 is on.’
Now, despite his clever observational comedy to the contrary, Seinfeld knows perfectly well that the purpose of the workout is not the workout, it’s to help you acquire the stamina, strength and appearance to do and be what you want, when you’re not in the health club.
The same is true for church services.
Now, this is tricky, because none of us think we do church for church’s sake. But if all of our Christ-centred activities happen on Sunday mornings, it won’t matter what we overtly think about church. What will matter is what we overtly do (or choose not to do) to be the church, Monday through Saturday.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that North American society is extremely well educated about the impact of regular exercise on both quality and quantity of life, we’re probably the most sedentary bunch of marshmallows in the history of humanity.
Therefore, it may not be particularly helpful to look at church as a spiritual health club. We don’t do so good at walking this talk.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” – John 8:12
Pop your little phosphorescent action figures under the lamp for 20 minutes or so, and they’ll give off a nifty green glow that turns your bedroom into an eerie and exciting battlefield. But after a while, the glow will fade.
Now, most phosphorescent toys are still decent toys when their ‘glow cells’ are empty. They work as well for daytime diorama drama as any other action figure. But for a glow-in-the-dark Buzz Lightyear to fully go to infinity and beyond the way he was made to, he needs to return to the lamp regularly, to soak up some light from the source.
And so do you and I.
But imagine if we kept our glow-in-the-dark toys under the livingroom lamp and never brought them into the dark room. What good would all that nifty phosphorescence be if it never left the lamp? Glow-Buzz was made to shine in dark places.
And so were you and I.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
Peace be with you.