Preachers are privileged to see life in all of its rawness as well as refinement. The refinement part tends to be the Sunday pageantry you see—people in their best and at their best. I have no problem with that. I know the good people against organized religion tend to think it’s all hypocrisy. It can be and sometimes is I suppose, but I think those who see all churchgoers that way are painting with too broad of a brush. More to the point, I think they are missing the point. I think the majority truth is not that at church you usually see people pretending to be something they aren’t, but rather you see them trying to be their best, trying to be what they would like to be all of the time. Now no one thinks to call a single person a hypocrite because they dress up and act their best on a date. Neither would we apply the label to someone who seeks to be their best on a job interview. The fact that churchgoers aren’t at their best all of the time doesn’t make them hypocrites, it just makes them human and underscores the reason they seek God in the first place.
The rawness of life aspect would be those times when you see the veneer of more normal circumstances stripped away. It might be a birth or a death, a baptism or a wedding, time in the hospital, or time on vacation. I’ve found that when you take into account the fact that someone has been removed from their normal circumstances, most people behave in a way that is fairly consistent with their overall personality. All churches experience raw moments. One time our church experienced a birth and a death on the same day. On another occasion we had a death, two baptisms, a wedding, and a few people with potentially life-threatening medical conditions—all within a span of forty-eight hours.
Solomon would write in Ecclesiastes that there was a blessedness about the house of mourning (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4). In the rawness of such moments we not only think about our own mortality, we realize the inadequacy and even foolishness of our attempts to culturally or individually insulate ourselves. Life is what it is and it has been they way since they have been writing history. It is about birth and death, sickness and health, joy and sorrow. We try but we cannot change any of that. Therefore, we do well to learn from these inevitabilities. So the writer says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” For it is at such moments that we are profoundly teachable, open to God, and convicted of our frailty.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” (Matthew 5:8).