In the midst of presidential elections and Daylight Saving Time (which is this Sunday, March 8, by the way), the topic on everyone’s mind is COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus. It certainly has been on mine. Part of it, of course, is my concern for my own health. But the larger part is my concern for how we manage the situation at church, much as other places where people gather in significant numbers on a regular basis have to do.
Some time ago, back when TV was beginning to establish its place or prominence in American households, network executives came up with a format that came to be known as the “game show,” in which contestants would compete with one another for prizes and grand excursions and significant sums of money. It would arguably become a format that would turn out to be the staple of television broadcasting even to the present day.
How is that some people seem so prepared to barge through open doors while others of us find them slamming in our face? Clearly, our level of readiness has something to do with whether or not we make it through those passageways. Some people seem never to miss those moments of opportunity, while others only know them after someone else has taken advantage of them first.
I have always been uncomfortable with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount where He speaks with His disciples about their need to strive for perfection. You remember the verse: “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The whole notion that any of us could strive to be equal to God in any respect boggles my mind. How could Jesus expect sinful folk to rise to this level of performance? It always seemed like in some way Jesus was setting us disciples up for failure, and massively so.
Dr. Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate, once made a speech in which he contended that many people today suffer from a malady he called “Destination Sickness.” Of course, you won’t find anything of the sort in any medical textbook. “Destination Sickness” is a disease of the soul – one that people contract when they focus all of their time and energy in the wrong direction; for example, in the pursuit of position and possessions as the most important concerns of everyday existence. Halverson describes such a person in this way: “He’s the man who’s become a whale of success downtown and a pathetic failure at home. He’s a big shot with the boys at the office and a big phony with the boys at home. He’s the status symbol to society and a fake in the family.” He concludes that “Destination Sickness is an illness peculiar to a culture that is affluent, but godless” (“A Day at a Time”).
These last several days with this infernal rain have been agonizing ones for me. I’m normally a person who takes the weather as it comes, but the amount of rain we’ve received over the last week or so has somehow managed to get the best of me. Part of it may be my weariness over our recent move from one house to another, with all of the subsequent transitional matters that come along with it, most of which seems to have occurred in the rain. But part of it may be my having reached a stage in life where I’m becoming more aware of how so very many things seem no longer to be under my control as they once did and the inevitable exasperation such awareness brings. In other words, my frustration with the weather is just the tip of the iceberg for something much more significant going on under the surface of my soul.
Normally, when we think of making improvements, our minds turn to action. We ask ourselves questions like, “What can I do to become better?” But in the question itself lies the real secret to improvement, which explains why so many fall short in their attempts at doing better. In other words, improvement at anything is more an aspect of being than it is of doing. Work on the “becoming” part and the “doing” part gets remarkably easier.
Most of you reading this article are aware that this Sunday is “Super Bowl Sunday.” Even if you’re not a football fan, chances are that you’ll be like the vast majority of Americans, glued to the tube, or at least doing something with the game on in the background. Estimates are that around 115 million of us will be tuned in to the game, which represents almost 36% of the population – a staggering percentage when you stop and think about it.
A church always functions best and most faithfully when its members live out the teachings of Jesus. While it’s important for believers to think rightly, it’s perhaps even more critical that they live rightly. As the old saying goes, “Anyone can talk a good game.” What turns heads and hearts, especially in this day when people no longer grant as much respect to the church as in day’s past, is for people to align their verbal confession with their behavioral one.