A lot of the streets this past Sunday were blocked off for the Triathlon that was being held downtown and on the riverfront. While I don’t think any parishioners were participating, everyone coming to church had to dodge the barricades and found it pretty hard to get here. As I stood outside the church after the 7:30 Eucharist, those barriers I saw reminded me of the great many things that individuals and families have to work around to get to church. While there was a day when the only choice besides going to church on Sundays was to stay at home, now there are umpteen other things going on. And they all seem to be good things.
A friend of mine was telling me this week about his five year old daughter who is playing T-Ball. The last game they went to started at 6:30 and the family got home at 8:30, and this on a school night. It seems rather outrageous to keep a five year old and her two younger siblings out that late on the one hand, but on the other, how can we deprive our children of the wonderful opportunity of joining a team and learning valuable lessons.
Yes, I would certainly argue that we start our children way too young in all the various extra-curricular activities. Yes, I would say we often do that more out of our own need to be part of things and to gain status with our own peers. And yes, I would say that we take all those things way too seriously, as another friend’s comment about a parent yelling and screaming at a 7 year old’s girls’ softball game would indicate. But mainly I’m just processing the fact that families have so many things they have to choose between. Our current culture demands that we get the children involved in various things. It’s no longer advised that we allow children to have free time after school to just play around the neighborhood. They should be doing something more official. And those activities, which even spill over into Sunday mornings, take their toll in terms of energy. When we don’t have something scheduled for a Sunday, that is often the only time during the week when we might be able to just relax. Relaxation is yet another very good option and much needed in our world today when our whole week is so scheduled.
Adults without children have their own variety of good options. This is a social town in the very best sense of the term. Most everything that is good around here emanates at least in part from a social gathering. We build networks, we bond together, we laugh and celebrate with each other. We certainly don’t need less of that, maybe even more.
While I’m not above it, this isn’t a harangue about your need to come to church more often. It’s intended to be an acknowledgement of the great pressure you are all under to keep up with your many good options. We have to make so many choices. They all seem like good choices. It’s always easier to choose between good and bad. Most anyone can make that choice. But choosing between a variety of good options is downright dumbfounding. So we try to choose them all. That exposes us to even more good, we reason.
In all of the pressure we face, amidst all of the choices we must make, God presents himself in a soothing and inviting way. No thinking person would argue that God is limited to the church. God is just as much involved in a T-Ball game as he is the blessed sacraments. The church doesn’t have a corner on the market on all that is good and holy.
The church doesn’t want to compete with your other good options. We seek to offer you the continued outpouring of grace as you face all your choices. God calls us, as the church, to be in the world as a leaven. We’re not the good guys in an evil world, though we are a reminder of God’s grace in a broken and sinful world. The world wasn’t better in the 1950s when your only choice on Sundays was going to church. Neither is the world any better now than it was then. The world is full of good things, any of which can draw us away from the love of Christ or bond us closer to it.
As you choose between your many good options, know that God has chosen you to love and bless. His choice of us is what we celebrate in Christ Jesus.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.