Monday, April 23, 2007

Is Worship Tiresome?

A parishioner gave me a page from a calendar called "Forgotten English." The word of the day was "doattee." Its definition: "To nod the head when sleep comes on whilst one is sitting up. This action is to be noticed in church." An anecdote followed:

"At Dunchurch, a person bearing a stout wand shaped like a hay fork at the end, stepped stealthily up and down the nave and aisle, and when he saw an individual asleep he touched him so effectually that the spell was broken - this being done by fitting the fork to the nape of the neck. We read of the beadle in another church, going around the edifice during service carrying a long staff, at one end of which was a fox's brush, and at the other a knob. With the former he gently tickled the faces of the female sleepers, while on the heads of their male compeers he bestowed with the knob a sensible rap" (W. & R. Chambers, Book of Days, 1864).

In my first parish I had a woman who every Sunday fell asleep the minute I began to preach. I knew she was asleep because her mouth would fall open. How I would have loved to have had a long staff to awaken that "doattee"! But lately, being forced by illness to become a pew-sitter instead of a preacher, I have frequently been uncomfortable, fidgety, and even tired during worship. I look at my watch and critique the preachers we have scheduled. In short, I have become, if not quite a doattee, perhaps a parishioner.

What is it about church services which induces slumber? Poor preaching, dull liturgy, dirge-like music? I have experienced all three over the past six months. And yet, if pressed, I would not change our worship. The really "sucessful" churches in our area resemble rock concerts (no slumbering there - it's too loud). But on a warm Sunday morning, with the birds singing in cemetery, it can be hard to maintain one's focus.

The problem lies not in worship, but in our hearts. We lack that burning desire David had to be in the house of the Lord. We have domesticated our spirits, taming them to the point of slumber. My daughter attends a Reformed Baptist church while she is away at college. She's always liked Baptist churches because they have better music, more fun, and lively spirits. We Reformed are often labelled the "frozen chosen," and our empty churches betray our lack of joy in worshipping the Lord. It is joy which enlivens the heart, and it is the lack of joy which induces slumber. If we were truly set on praising God each Sabbath day, no worship service would ever contain a "doattee."

2 Comments:

Blogger Stan said...

"The problem lies not in worship, but in our hearts. We lack that burning desire David had to be in the house of the Lord."

Amen and amen! How can it be "tiresome" if we are joining with angels and saints in the presence of the Most High? Because we are dull of hearts and fail to understand it. We don't actually have that one desire to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

R. C. Sproul said that men came into the presence of God, cried, fainted, fell on their knees, fell on their faces, etc., but never once, did anyone every fall asleep in the presence of God.

1:32 PM  

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