Distractions are common in life. It is during the most important events that distractions seem amplified. A recent weekend full of events reminded me of that fact. I officiated a wedding on a Saturday followed by being a guest speaker on a Sunday. I live in Illinois but these events were in Iowa. At least the locations were relatively close to each other. Anyway the wedding took place at a public park and during the rehearsal some kids were playing on the swing set. Normally the noise would have been easily ignored but while coordinating a wedding ceremony it seemed loud. The chains made a creaking noise that kept getting my attention. The entire wedding party was instructed to be prepared and ignore common distractions associated with being outside during the ceremony.
The day of the wedding had spotty rain showers and that caused some concern but it remained dry at the right time. With all the possible distractions that could occur it was a honey bee that almost got undo attention. During the ceremony with the bride and groom facing me a bee landed on the pulpit. The groom fixated his attention on the bee for what seemed like a full minute. (Amazing how much slower time seems to go during certain situations.) After the bee flew away the thought of it crossed my mind more than once during the wedding. The end result was a beautiful outdoor wedding despite what turned out to be minor distractions.
The next morning I had a pulpit assignment at a small rural church that I’ve spoken at a few times before. During the praise and worship time a spider made its appearance on the podium. The lady leading worship was so disconcerted that she actually stopped the worship set to have someone eradicate the intruding arachnid. The Pastor of this church got up and used a Kleenex to dispose of the unwanted creature with the exclamation of “oh my that is a big spider”. The worship time continued with no further interference.
When it was time to preach I set my notes on the pulpit and scanned the area for more spiders. My opening began with thanking the Pastor for taking care of the spider for me. He quipped “I noticed you didn’t jump up to help with the spider” and I said “no, I draw the line at spiders.” The sermon was well received with no further spider interventions.
One of the biggest distractions for preachers is when someone falls asleep during the sermon. I have both been the sleeper and the speaker responsible for public nap time. There is comfort in knowing that even the Apostle Paul faced distractions when he preached.
Acts 20:7-12 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.
More than one person has had a good snooze in church but falling out of a window is a pretty unusual event! Someone falling to their death during a church service would constitute more than a minor distraction. In the case of Eutychus, his little nap made him famous. God can change any situation into an event to show His mercy and glory.
Maybe those of us who have an active role in church activities can learn to accept less than perfect worship conditions. Sometimes bees, spiders, and other distractions happen. If we allow those things to be the spotlight we minimize what God may be doing in that moment. Think about that the next time the person beside you sings off key during worship time or the person in front of you falls asleep in church. Enjoy the life God wants you to have and don’t worry about the small stuff.
Rev. Burt Schwab