An Evening at the Fitzgerald and Church

My wife purchased tickets through one of those daily deal sites recently for seeing Garrison Keillor with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for a Winter Concert. I've been wanting to see Garrison in person for a while. Being an English major, I love that side of his humor. Being a farm kid, I love the Midwestern humor. And sometimes I just love the quaintness of a radio show. And while this wasn't A Prairie Home Companion show, it was still good. The evening was a montage of stories and song--and mostly stories through song. It was fun just to sit in the Fitzgerald Theater.

Sitting in semi-uncomfortable seats squished between my wife and some woman I didn't know, and as some of the songs were religious in nature (some of the words as well as music borrowed from old hymns) I was struck with some of the similarities and differences with the theater and some churches I've attended.

In some churches you're there to be ultimately entertained. You may even be in theater seats. You may be in a balcony like I was. Chances are you're sitting next to someone you don't know. You may never see them again. You probably didn't interact with them other than sharing a laugh at a joke. There may be people around you drinking wine (the Fitzgerald served some at least), but you don't share it together.

I currently attend a church where you know everyone. Any guests are introduced to the group in our gathering prayer time--and almost always we're aware they'll be coming before the worship service. We sit together, side-by-side. We serve each other communion. The table is a reminder of our calling together. And while worship may be "entertaining" it is more of an invitation to participation. We are gathered not for ourselves, but for God. He is the reason we are there together. What we do is supposed to be for Him--not for us.

Garrison said something in a song at one point about "not wanting to end up pissed / finding out I should have been an atheist." It was ultimately a prayer about wanting God [and Heaven] to be real. Sometimes we need the places like the theater to join with the masses in hoping God is real. Sometimes we need the reminder that others need God. We need the laughter and even the anonymity at times. We need the good-ness of what culture has to offer. But that is not church.

Despite the lateness on a school night (we'd had early mornings and late nights), we enjoyed the time. We laughed, we were wistful, we enjoyed the music. We were entertained. Plus, we got to enjoy Garrison in his red Adidas shoes and suit. No kids and good conversation while driving (plus the overall time with my wonderful bride)--that's a good date night. And those kind of nights are important to have.

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