Friday, September 19, 2014

That's Not How Any of This Works!

You’ve seen the commercial: Beatrice brags, “Instead of mailing everyone my vacation photos, I’m saving a ton of time by posting them to my wall,” and points to the actual pictures physically tacked to the wall behind her. When she brags about saving time and money by calling a certain insurance company, one of her guests counters that she saved twice as much in half the time with another company. Beatrice looks at her and declares, “I unfriend you,” to which she says, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

Whether it’s Beatrice thumb-tacking pictures to her den wall, Carol on the roof with a bullhorn, or Milton with his photocopy selfies, the point of the commercials is that in not understanding something important we risk missing out on something beneficial, sometimes crucial. Most of those commercials end with someone shaking their head and gently saying, “That’s not how this works.”

Sometimes I feel like saying “That’s not how this works!” on Sunday mornings when people use the passing of the peace in ways that rob it of its purpose. When we see it as a time to roam the sanctuary greeting as many people as possible, we lose the opportunity for deeper connection with those immediately around us in the service. When we use it to carry on an extended chat with someone that we haven’t seen for a while, we risk ignoring someone who may need a brief touch; and the chat often continues into the first hymn (last Sunday one lasted through the entire hymn) and keeps those who are chatting from voicing their praise to God.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that we should do our best as a body of Christ to make sure that all who gather with us for worship receive a warm, cordial welcome. But can we trust the church members on the other side of the sanctuary to greet those who are near them? I also believe that it is important within the context of Christian community to show compassion for each other, bearing each other’s burdens. Scripture says that this fulfills the law of Christ. But long one-on-one conversations about the details of my week (and how I feel about it) belong at another time.

When I see folks racing from one side of the sanctuary to the other, or chatting through the hymns, I want to scream with Beatrice’s friend, “That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!” because we are missing out on something crucial when that happens.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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