Lately I have been encountering lifestyle realities being transferred into the religious reality. Most people – whether they are young and old, college students or retired, seem to have less time. We imagine that we have less time (sometimes we make ourselves have less time), and then we invent shortcuts.
One of the in vogue accommodations is for churches to have the Worship Service at the same time as the Sunday School classes or the religious instruction for the children. The argument is that the parents can give about 90 minutes of their time to God on Sunday and that is it. Some of you reading this column think that half of that is the maximum amount of time that you can give to God.
A friend of mine was telling me that when he talks with people attending church regularly, we no longer understand as it being there every Sunday. The new regular attendee thinks that if he comes 2-3 Sundays per month, he is attending church regularly.
Recently, a couple came to see me as they prepared for their wedding. After talking with them about pre-marital counseling and other items pertaining to the wedding, I found out that I was the last item on their agenda (they had their musicians, the caterers, and the reception hall picked already). Then they asked me how long my shortest wedding ceremony had been. When I told them that the shortest wedding that I have done (even though this was the exception) was about 30 minutes, they wanted to find out if I could beat my record and do a wedding in 20 minutes!
The one that tops them all is someone calling me to do a funeral service for someone who was not very religious. The person explained that the deceased did not see too much good in the church and they do not recall that this person ever attending a church, but they felt that something religious should be done for this person. (I have been to communist funeral services in my youth when the communist comrades were buried and I can attest that these were some of the saddest memories in my life). However, it struck me as funny that the deceased did not have time for God while alive, but the relatives felt that something religious must be done after they were gone.
There have been many promises made to us by the industrial and technological revolutions. One of them was that we will have more time to relax, be with one another, reflect on the beauty of life and have more time with God. Yet when I look at my children and to the retired people in this community, they are constantly on the go. Relaxation, reflection, the deepening of friendships and deepening of our relationship with God are all suffering. The teens in my church – high school and college – tell me that they do not have time for spiritual activities and then show me their packed planners. The retired people tell me that as long as they are healthy, they have to do all these things and that I will not see them for a season because they have to travel or do this thing or the other.
One of my mentors used to say that during the daytime, when he was hectically busy, he would send up what he called lightning prayers. These prayers were, “Lord, help me right now. I need your help.” However, it was the same gentleman who used to say that in order for God to answer your lightning prayers during the daytime, He needed to know you from your previous lengthy experiences with Him on your knees. Otherwise, when you send up a lightning prayer, He may respond, “Please come for a longer session and I will answer your prayers then.”