Vegetables or Dessert?

VegetablesI have an uncle who, as a child, was not a fan of vegetables, unless you count French Fries and somehow they just never seem to count. One night my grandmother told him that he couldn’t get up from the table until he ate his broccoli. For two hours he sat and stared at that broccoli, unable to bring himself to eat it. But eventually the broccoli disappeared and my uncle was set free from his table bondage. 

Several days later the kitchen began to stink. A clean freak, my grandmother scoured the kitchen from top to bottom but the smell just kept getting worse. It wasn’t until several days later that my grandparents discovered that their son had hidden his broccoli underneath the table where additional table leaves could be added.

Many of us grew up with parents who, wanting the best for us, insisted that we eat our vegetables. “No dessert until you finish your vegetables” is a common dinner table refrain. I often ate vegetables out of a sense of guilt or coercion, but I always ate dessert because I wanted to!

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop, looked up and saw a church member. She immediately lowered her gaze. I’m certain that if she had been a dog she would have put her tail between her legs. She walked up to me and said, “I’m so sorry that I haven’t been in church lately. I know I should go but I’ve been so busy.” Guilt dripped off of her like butter off hot peas.

I find it a bit odd that people often feel the need to apologize to me for their lack of church attendance. Do people think that somehow they’re doing me a personal favor by attending, or personally insulting me when they don’t? Do people think that I keep an attendance sheet on God’s behalf, or that God loves perfect attenders more than the “Cradle and Cross” crowd?

I wonder what would happen if we thought of “going to church” more like eating dessert and less like eating vegetables (I know…some of you love vegetable, but go with me here). I don’t mean to imply that worship attendance isn’t important, but I wonder how much richer the experience would be if we did it, not out of guilt but out of sheer pleasure. It is, as the old liturgy says, both our duty and our delight, but sometimes when duty does all the driving the journey isn’t terribly joyful. Guilt is, in my opinion, a miserable motivator in the long-haul.

The chairs were filled at our church on Easter weekend. They probably were at your church too. How many pastors and dutiful church members thought (or even said out loud) “I guess we won’t be seeing them again until Christmas?” I wonder if behind the humor lies a vegetable discipleship.

Easter is the proclamation of the good news that God’s love for us is unconditional. It isn’t dependent upon our church attendance. Worship attendance is a “get to” and not a “have to”. That’s what grace is all about. When it comes to following Jesus you really can have your cake and eat it too. It can even be carrot cake.

So, which is it for you…duty or delight? Or both? I’d be curious to know, so leave a comment.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Jason Kramme

    Worship would be a great desert… in the context of a seven course discipleship meal/week. Neither desert or vegetables, on their own, if they were all you ate, would make a well balanced diet… That said, if worship could be any desert, I would make it fruit pizza. So good!

  • Kay Erickson

    If I miss the worship services at POP for a week or two, my soul gets hungry. When I return, I’m fed. Feels as healthy as vegetables and as satisfying as dessert.

    • babsbeaty

      Agreed. When I miss a couple of weeks of worship, I am reluctant to make the effort to go back. That extra hour or so of free time (or sleep) is too temping. But when I do go back, I am so fed and refreshed and energized I can’t imagine skipping worship ever again.

  • Michaela Duerson

    Both.

  • Ken Walter

    I’ll say vegetables and then desert, for I see great wisdom in those dinner table rules in childhood for the discipline of paying attention to what is a need and what is a want, for the want is the ‘carrot’ to get my vegetable needs met for spiritual health. I think this can go deeper, as perhaps the most important need is to be in community at my place at the table as a child of God honoring that gift of grace, honoring the Savior, God’s only Son who died for me in obedience to His father. When we as His family, the body of Christ, worship, pray, and praise Him with thanksgiving in large community the Glory to our Father in heaven is magnified and His blessings are showered over us children in ever increasing ways and double portions come for us to receive. His healing of my mind, body, and spirit are His gifts that keep me moving closer to the Holy Spirit and heaven on earth.
    I am reminded of Marion’s song after the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry ground, Nehemiah and Ezra worshiping on top of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem, and the host of angels with the shepherds praising God for the birth of our Savior. Perhaps we could extend the 11:00 AM worship a few minutes and include more praise time, singing songs easy to follow and having a crescendo of voices raising the roof so to speak. Thanks be to God that He includes a place for you and me at His table! All these ways we can glorify God with what is most pleasing to Him, our thanksgiving recognizing the authorship and creation only available to us because He provides it.