The guest speaker presents an outstanding message. It’s well-organized, skillfully delivered, and short. The elders of the church promptly offer him the open pulpit position. But then, to everyone’s dismay, the man’s first sermon as the new minister lasts two hours. Children cry. Roasts burn. Calling an emergency meeting, the elders demand an explanation. “Your interview sermon was perfect,” they say. “Why did you preach so long today?” Sheepishly, the new preacher says, “Well, brothers, I wear dentures. And this morning I accidentally put in my wife’s teeth.”
This corny joke not only teases women and preachers but also takes a jab at all of us for being so concerned about the time. I heard about a congregation in Wyoming that has “Remember Lot’s Wife” posted under the auditorium clock. Most of us do want services to end in a timely manner, but are we consistent? Are we equally concerned about the time our worship begins?
Obviously, habitual tardiness isn’t the end of the world. It’s better to arrive late than to miss altogether. However, there are some excellent reasons for consistently arriving on time or even a little early. First, my tardiness distracts people already engaged in Bible study or worship. And a Bible school teacher may sometimes feel compelled to reintroduce a lesson so that latecomers will understand it. Second, habitual tardiness sends the wrong message. If an event truly matters to us—a child’s ball game, a sister’s wedding, a granddaughter’s graduation, a job interview—we manage to be early. Finally, being on time is best for us. We can’t get the most from worship if we arrive at the assembly breathless and frustrated.
For King David assembling in God’s presence was a joy. One of his psalms begins: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Ps. 122:1). Do we share David’s enthusiasm? Does our time of arrival suggest eagerness to worship – or apathy and reluctance?