Church Is A Royal Waste Of Time
What good is the church? Does it serve any purpose? What does it accomplish? What tangible benefit does it bring her members or the members of its local community? True, a church may gather provisions for the needy. Its members may roll up their sleeves and help each other with a practical need. It may host seminars on financial responsibility or act as a venue for fellowship opportunities. Its pastors and teachers may communicate helpful information in sermons and classes that increase the knowledge of its members. But have you ever thought that all of these things could be accomplished by other agencies and organizations? There are any number of venues where I might go for information, affiliation, financial assistance, education, volunteering or entertainment.
But none of these activities are at the heart of what the church does and what the church is about. The church is the vehicle by which God brings men and women back into fellowship with Himself through Word and Sacrament. Our weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the central activity of our corporate life together. There we ascend to God and are refreshed in our union with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
But does anything—anything at all—get accomplished in worship? Years ago, I encountered a remarkable book by author Marva J. Dawn entitled A Royal “Waste” of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World. Dawn did not beat around the bush:
To worship the Lord is – in the world’s eyes – a waste of time. It is, indeed, a royal waste of time, but a waste nonetheless. By engaging in it, we don’t accomplish anything useful in our society’s terms.
Can you swallow that? But wait, it gets worse:
Worship ought not to be construed in a utilitarian way. Its purpose is not to gain numbers nor for our churches to be seen as successful. Rather, the entire reason for our worship is that God deserves it.
Really? Do you have any inkling of how deeply counter-cultural that statement is? And I don’t just mean that it runs against the grain of our secular American culture (which it most certainly does!), I mean that it contradicts our contemporary Christian culture. Many Christians would not be able to accept the statement above. Success is just not defined that way in our culture. We believe that unless something very measurable is being accomplished, our activity is of no value. And if we cannot determine a tangible good or a measurable progress, we assume it is a waste of time. I submit to you, that this is an ungodly way to think and to order our lives.
Put this newsletter down for a moment and pause. Think about the most poignant, the most beautiful moments in your life. In most of them, nothing is “accomplished.” A fine candle light dinner. An evening of fellowship with close friends. Writing a poem. Staring at animals at the zoo. Appreciating art. Reading a book for pleasure. Making love to your spouse. Listening to the rain on the roof by a blazing fire. Swimming in the ocean. Screaming in frustrated joy at a ball game. Playing with your children or grandchildren. A leisurely walk. Lying in the grass gazing at the blue sky. Watching a movie. Going to a concert. Singing in the shower. Listening to music. None of these activities are necessary in a purely utilitarian sense. But are the unnecessary things of our lives not essential?
Worship is central to all of the activities of our lives. But more than that:
Worship is a royal waste of time, but indeed it is royal, for it immerses us in the regal splendor of the King of the cosmos. The churches’ worship provides opportunities for us to enjoy God’s presence in corporate ways that take us out of time and into the eternal purposes of God’s kingdom. As a result, we shall be changed – but not because of anything we do. God, on whom we are centered and to whom we submit, will transform us by his Revelation of himself.
There it is. Worship IS a waste of time, but a royal waste of time! Worship is essential. Worship is a relief. Going to church means escape, escape from the rat race of deadlines, and the tyranny of time. If you don’t have time to go to church and ascend with your brothers and sisters to participate in the heavenly liturgy, where the cosmic worship of God never ceases, then you are a slave of time, and you refuse the relief and refreshment of the only activity that really matters, that one activity that matters forever.