A colleague tells me the story of a hot August Sunday in a steamy Hudson valley sanctuary. A faithful and hearty few had turned out for worship, for fellowship, for the sake of duty, and for reasons known only to them. The service plodded on as the substitute organist fumbled his way erratically along the keyboard (only) of the organ. The Scripture reading wasn't terribly long. The sermon began. And continued. And continued. And continued, until the minister took a good look at the weary flock, and monitored his own attentiveness, and, mid-sentence, broke off from the text and asked "Are any of you getting any more out of this than I am?" And that, as the saying goes, was that. Amen. Offering. Prayer. First verse of final hymn. Benediction, and home 20 minutes early.
Another Sunday story: every item in the service went just as planned. Hymns were sung, prayers prayed, sermon preached, offering collected. Then came the long prayer, as the preacher intoned one pious phrase after another, building up to that "it's almost done" moment for which every child waits, and the transition progressed thusly: "...... and now we offer our hearts to you in the words which our Lord Jesus taught us to pray together, saying, 'Now I lay me down to sleep . . . .'"
Third story, as a preacher walked his way through his 38th Easter Sunday service. To cut to the chase, as he read Mark's version of the empty tomb, he got it just slightly wrong: "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is here; he has not risen!" Yes. They caught it. And remembered it, every Easter thereafter. As did he.
All true stories, which I offer to you with the simple encouragement on what may be one of the deader Sundays of the year. Whether you are worshiper or worship leader, wake up. Pay attention. Whatever your "all" is this morning, give it. Take a nap after you get home.
Rev. Paul G. Janssen is the Pastor and Teacher of Pascack Reformed Church in Park Ridge, New Jersey, which he has served since 1991.