No matter what else you think about it, a church service is a live performance. Like a lecture, it has a professional speaker. Like a concert, it has music and musicians. Like performance art in a museum, it has burning candles and architecture. Like sports, it has “us” and “them.” Like theater, it has a hero and a villain.
A Christian church service even has food, if you count a swallow of wine and a wafer as food.
If nothing else, these things supply reason for subsidizing the offering plate. Of course, I believe contributing to a church is more than paying for a ticket, but at the bare minimum, the players in the performance that is a worship service deserve some recompense.
Today, my church service had a bonus buy.
I witnessed a moment of humanity.
My pastor, who is battling cancer and has been absent from services for weeks, officiated at a baby’s baptism this morning. I have missed him, and I’m among many members praying furiously for his return to good health. It was so good to see him, pale and thin perhaps, but upright. A fellow pastor officiated at the rest of service, but Pastor was performing the baptism.
As he began the rite, he said, as he always says at a baptism and the beginning of any service, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Only his voice caught on the word, “Father.”
I don’t know what crossed his mind at that moment, but what crossed mine was, “Oh, joy! He is here. He is speaking. He is doing what he was ordained to do — welcoming another child into the Lutheran fold. And I am so grateful to be here to witness it.”
A moment later, another phrase I have heard him utter probably a thousand times had new meaning coming from his lips:
“Whoever believes in Him shall not perish.”
Those moments of being there, of being genuinely present, of witnessing the miracles of health and good work and faith were worth the price of admission.