Sunday, April 27, 2008


I didn’t have a very good time at church this morning for one simple reason: the sermon was remarkably, exceptionally, dangerously boring.

How, I wondered about ten minutes in, would I be able to not leap from my chair and run out of the church? It seemed to be the only acceptable course of action. The idea of staying put was as radical and unpalatable as going into Baskin Robbins, looking at all the rocky road, coffee and chocolate chip cookie dough icecreams, and deciding to ask for the Brussel Sprout Surprise.

Still, as Sir Isaac Newton would have told you, had both you and he been present there with me, inertia is a powerful force. It helped me to fight down the flight instinct, and I tried paying closer attention to the sermon. But that just made it worse. To call it a stream of disjointed clichés and platitudes would probably be unfair, but to call it an engaging expression of tightly formed theological argument would be several orders of magnitude more unfair.

I had an outline of the sermon in front of me, printed with a non-waterproof ink that came off on my fingers and became smudged over everything I touched. This meant that I could see just how far we’d progressed, or more accurately, just how far we had to go. It made every digression, tangent or new anecdote all the more torturous, as I could see the end being stretched even further away. It was like running a marathon, with your legs screaming and your lungs burning and feeling past the point of exhaustion, then seeing the finish line appear and striving toward it… only to discover that it’s just another bend in the road.

As if all this weren’t bad enough (and it was quite sufficiently bad for my simple needs, thank you very much), there was also the matter of the preacher’s presentation. His voice was an unwavering blur of sound, a monotonal cadence that rose and fell as imperceptibly as the chest of a sleeping baby. He could have been discussing his erotic fantasies about Jessica Alba and it still would have been soporific. Even for Jessica Alba.

And it wasn’t just me. The guy on the sound desk was slumped over the controls, apparently fast asleep. His brother, sitting nearby, was slouched back in his chair so far that his head rested on the seat back, giving him the appearance of having been gunned down during the Bible reading. I watched them both for five whole minutes and neither of them moved a muscle.

As it trickled on and on and on, I was reduced to compiling David Letterman-style lists just to keep upright:

Top 10 Things That Could Have Made This Sermon More Bearable

10. An interesting stain on the ceiling to look at.
9. Mamie van Doren, at any age, in any capacity.
8. The first ever documented case of transubstantiation.
7. An Elvis sighting.
6. Kuluha.
5. An ability to accurately remember Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.
4. Finding hidden meaning in the pattern of my plaid shirt.
3. Counting the number of bricks in the wall at the front of the room.
2. A good, scratchable outbreak of eczema.
1. Writing blog notes on the bottom of the sermon outline.

Actually that last one didn’t work all that well.

The funny thing is that when he finally ground to a halt, I looked up at the clock and was astonished to see that only half an hour had passed. If Albert Einstein had been there he could have explained to me how an ordinary human preacher could bend space/time to make half an hour infinitely long. Or he could have had a huge punch up with Sir Isaac Newton. Either way it would have been a welcome distraction.

Now, just in case you think that this is all just a product of my lackadaisical attitude to theology and puny attention span, contrast this sermon with the one I experienced six hours later at my evening church (yes, I go to two churches on Sunday: I am just that holy). The preacher there spoke for exactly sixty minutes… and it was as interesting and thought-provoking as, well, discussing erotic fantasies about Jessica Alba.

Well, maybe not. But you get the idea.


Blogger an9ie said...

When I hear sermons like that I start thinking about how I could have written a better sermon. Then I fantasise about preaching it to the congretation. I wonder if that is a Bad Thing?

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wear plaid shirts?

7:20 PM  
Blogger 2BarRiff said...

I had a similar experience to that today, only it involved being in a 2.5 hour meeting with some local government types.

Even now, I can't work out what was decided and why I was there. Guess I'll have to wait for the minutes to be sent.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Paul Bartley said...

I loved the image of the sound tech's brother appearing as though he'd been gunned down during the Bible reading. I wonder why I find that funny... only now the actual reality hits me as something less than desirable. Anyway, great writing! Quite hilarious.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Paul, I too am against the gunning down of congregation members during Bible readings. It may be an unpopular decision, but we have to stand up for that which we believe to be right.

11:40 AM  

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