A Waste of Time

Oct 18, 2008

“Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, wasting time . . .” Sounds good right about now as the winter chills wash in off the Pacific. (Thanks Otis)

We have a strange relationship with wasting time. It seems that it is ok for holidays, but not acceptable in our regular life. In our utilitarian society, deeply rooted in the Protestant work ethic, the time we spend must achieve something, it must have a return or benefit – even if that benefit is rest! Otherwise, we are just wasting our time.

Translate that into the life of the worshipping community. I know some church-goers who will judge the worship service according to the perceived benefit they receive from it. Some have left a church after declaring, “I just don’t get much out of it.” If I’m going to give up a couple of hours on Sunday morning, then it better be beneficial to me and my kids.

Consider, then, this quote from Marva Dawn as she shares about her book, A Royal Waste of Time:

According to the world’s functionalistic expectations, worship is a royal waste of time. To worship God is to be so lost in loving God that we don’t expect anything in return. I’m very disturbed that we have made worship “functional” — utilitarian, that’s the word I want — and we say, “I didn’t get much out of that worship service” as if the only way to judge a worship service is whether or not I feel good. But if I’m worshipping God, it doesn’t matter what I feel like. So I’ve used that expression, a “waste” of time, provocatively to say “are you really willing to waste your time and not get anything out of it?”

If we say we’ve got to have a certain kind of worship service so that we get more numbers in our church, then you’re not worshipping God; you’re worshipping numbers.

The call to Sabbath is a call to waste time. As Abraham Heschel states, Sabbath is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.

There is a time to rule and a time to rest. A time to produce and a time to be unproductive. I believe that we have lost the sense of Sabbath in our culture (replaced by the frantic pursuit of leisure) and I sense that part of our life together as a community of the faithful should be the rediscovery of wasted time.

So, I would like to encourage us to develop a greater non-utilitarian approach to our life together at Southpoint. This Sabbath-based community life should impact our friendships, worship and gatherings together. It starts with the servant attitude of ‘what can I give’ instead of ‘what can I get’. Ultimately this attitude is found in viewing our whole lives, including all that we do and posses, as an offering to God which is our reasonable act of worship.

Cultivate some useless friendships. Attend some unproductive Southpoint Central gathering meals. Pray without asking for anything. Come to worship with no expectation of benefit.

Come waste time with us.

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