Sunday Service, Of Sorts

Originally published January 1999.

I recently went to a Sunday service, of sorts. The Minnesota Vikings were playing the Baltimore Ravens. Only one hour from home.

Viking fans from as far as Connecticut and South Carolina congregated at the NFL Stadium at Camden Yards. We met around food at the tailgate party. One thousand-plus of us Viking fans at that alone. Half of the 68,000 in the stadium who were Viking fans.

We had music. We had our guest preachers, Stu Voight, tight end during the Purple People Eater days and the owner of the Vikings, Red McCombs. Their preaching certainly raised the crowds. Everyone was there in their Sunday best of purple and gold. Everyone was welcomed with loud exclamations and hugs and high fives. We may not have known who they were, which was the majority, but we were all welcomed if they had on their Sunday best--or were just with someone in purple and gold.

We knew who the enemy was and kept our distance. There was no mingling with that devil unless we were equipped with words we could back up. And the communion wine was passed and passed and passed. Lots of beer.

It was a pretty fantastic Sunday. Of course, the Vikings won. Especially one to end the week with or to begin the week with. I talked about it for days after. But it didn't sit right in my soul. Why are not all Sundays like this for me?

Sunday/church clothes are not as fun to wear. But I won't get into that. That is obviously true personal opinion. My girlfriend loves to get dressed to the utmost on any occasion, even Sunday church.

It takes such an effort to get to church. A misconstrued effort. No matter what the morning routine is in who's household, no one seems to come to church in anticipation of "the big game" or of being together to celebrate another week walking with our Lord. Church is another item on the list that must be accomplished that day.

Because of the misconstrued effort to get there, people just want to put their time in and check this off their list. This is why they sit there, in their own safe section, and barely extend themselves from those safe boundaries. And certainly there are no high fives to visitors.

And since church is checked off of the list, it is not talked about during the rest of the week. Our faith has become so compartmentalized with church being tucked into its Sunday-only compartment.

In this "tolerant world" I can talk and banter about my Vikings all I want in whatever crowd. Even when I substitute teach at my public school. I can even wear my purple and gold (but the face paint must stay at home). I may get snickers but it doesn't offend anyone or make them uncomfortable.

But when it comes to talking about my faith, that does offend some people. I've had a teacher use offensive language to tell me that I offend her. Certainly I can't wear Christian clothing at Gar-Field High School. Legally I can't. A decision to talk about God or about church on Sunday in a crowd of acquaintances is a decision I make after measuring the crowd's possible reaction.

Of course, church has a whole lot more on the line than homefield advantage through the playoffs. A person's salvation is on the line. The inerrancy of the word of God is on the line. Not the preacher in the pulpit's inerrancy. I think some churches revolve around making him/her look inerrant.

With all this on the line, we can't make church like a tailgate party. But we can take that attitude in our approach to church. Especially those of us who have a hand in planning worship services. Let my joyous event mixed with my uncomfortableness bring you to do some searching prayer for something I'm sure you are already praying about.