Missed Manners

Nope, that isn’t a typo. Not Miss Manners, the advice columnist.  Missed Manners, as in, where did they go?  Any public space will show people who have mislaid their manners, if they ever had any to start with.

This Easter morning I take a look at the headlines on London Daily Mail, and see this story:

“Marauding parents in Easter Egg hunt rampage: Out-of-control adults push children to the ground, steal their buckets and leave one four-year-old ‘bloody’ at chaotic free event “ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3511343/Marauding-parents-Easter-Egg-hunt-rampage-control-adults-push-children-ground-steal-buckets-leave-one-four-year-old-bloody-chaotic-free-event.html#ixzz4473uk2Ie

And, yes, I am sitting at my computer this morning, reading news and writing this article. Re-writing it really.  I’ve been sitting on this one for a few years, debating whether to post it.  Today is the day.

Julie and I went to Easter service this morning, but we left before the service started. The place felt more like a football game than a worship service in God’s house.  People in general were very loud and boisterous.  A few women near us were yelling and cackling so loudly we actually winced a couple times at their piercing noises.

One reason I stopped going to Christmas services was the following coup de grace of Missed Manners. Blasphemy, in fact.

A guy in the front pew sees someone he hasn’t run into in a long time . Walking across the front of the church he shouts, “J____ Chr___!  How the hell have ya been?”  In church.  Taking Jesus’ name in vain.  On Christmas Eve.  With a huge grin on his face.

Don’t get me going on contemporary worship. The CW service that my last church had in our gym looked more to me like an excuse to be sloppy and disrespectful.  People showed up like they were either coming from or going to yard work.  Cut-offs, flip-flops, ratty jeans and sneakers, hair uncombed.  I remember watching one guy coming in, wearing some rock group’s t-shirt with skulls, etc., oblivious to his wife struggling with kids, coats, and bags behind him.

During the service people of all ages just get up and come and go as they please like they are at a rock concert in a huge arena. Never mind that the pastor is leading them in confession.  Or preaching his sermon.

In another church I had attended, bad behavior was not limited to contemporary worship. People in the sanctuary acted as if they weren’t in God’s house.  As if no one around them might be trying to use the time in silent reflection or reading the bible texts for the day.  Kids are not to use the pews as playground equipment, crawling over and under them.

Adults are often no better, treating hymns as commercial breaks in the show when they can have loud sidebar discussions. Since when is it that hard to keep quiet for an hour?  Or slightly more on communion Sundays?

There is a reason that the lobby (narthex) is physically separated from the sanctuary. The narthex is for the chit-chat and such.  The sanctuary is the place for reverence, reflection, and worship.

Sanctuary:

  1. A sacred or holy place.
  2. Judaism .
  3. the Biblical tabernacleor the Temple in Jerusalem.
  4. the holy of holies of these places of worship.
  5. an especially holy place in a temple or church.
  6. the part of a church around the altar; the chancel.

Sacred place. Holy place.  A place that has been set aside for and dedicated to God.  The  Creator and Supreme Ruler of the universe.  The Perfect Being who made you and me and has the power of judgment over us.  This is the Being we are coming before, whose house we are entering.  I’m thinking we might want to be on our best behavior and spiff ourselves up a bit.

Years ago my pastor in another city hung a poster in our narthex with a picture of a pair of sandals. The caption read “Jesus wore sandals to church too.”  I finally had to take him aside one Sunday morning.    “Pastor,” I said, “to be honest about this, that’s about the stupidest thing I ever heard. Of course Jesus wore sandals.  That’s all they had back then.  This is the Guy who stewed for a while over the disrespect shown His Father’s house while making His own home-made whip.  It took a little time.  Then He went ballistic and drove them out.  So, if we have better than sandals and cut-offs to wear to church, you think we might be on thin ice with the sandals and cut-offs?”

Next week the poster was gone.

I understand wanting to be inclusive.   I know God loves us as where are.  Loves US.  Not our zip code, so to speak.  He’d like us to move into a better neighborhood.

We are to call him Abba, which is Aramaic for something like “daddy” or “poppa.” In other words, we are on an intimate level with God.  But that doesn’t mean we lose our respect. Our parents are not our friends.  Which is to say we can’t talk to them like we talk to our peers.  We can be intimate with our parents and God, call them pop and mom.  But there is a line not to be crossed.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul exhorts them – and us – to “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In Matthew 10, Jesus Himself tells us “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” That’s our Abba He’s talking about.  The guy we call Abba and are in a familiar, loving relationship with.  He loves us, but He’s also just and has expectations.

Am I saying someone coming in as a guest and sloppy isn’t welcome? NO!  EVERYONE is welcome!  What I am saying is that, once God has touched you and made you His through the work of His Spirit, the loving response is to present yourself to Him in respect, as best you can.  It’s the long-term Christians who simply choose to be sloppy in church that I’m really talking to.  Even visitors should know how to act when in the role of guest at someone else’s place.

Does God love us as we are? Yes and no.  He loves US.  He doesn’t like the sin or poor behavior.  Our bodies, our lives are gifts from Him.  We are instructed to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice.”  I’m thinking He’d want us to take the best care we can.  Take a bath.  Dress up.  And, when you come over to His place, show a little respect.

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