The Sunday Newspaper
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Weekday newspapers give readers a balance between “hard newsâ€? and a variety of special features. But the Sunday paper is something else.

The Van Alstines subscribe both to the Pasadena Star-News and the Los Angeles Times. That’s probably more news than anyone can handle, but we’re into that pattern.

On Sundays I haul in the two massive piles of paper. I indulge myself with some newspaper reading before I turn to sermon preparation. My justification is that I need time for the coffee to kick in. But I never read beyond the very slim “hard newsâ€? section. Judy’s reading is usually also limited to the same few pages (minus the sports).

That means that over 90% by volume of our Sunday newspapers is thrown away untouched—not even scanned. Judy argues that subscribing to one Sunday newspaper, let alone two, is a horrible waste of money. But I won’t give it up, probably as an act of defiance against my mother, who wouldn’t allow a Sunday newspaper into our house.

Why are Sunday newspapers so huge? Because for many Americans, not being church-goers, Sunday is a kick-back day, when you don’t have to wake up until you’re good and ready, with nothing on your morning agenda but reading the local rag with a comforting cup of coffee. Maybe it’s hard to remember, but before TV, the newspaper and radio were the only media that could be enjoyed at home. Unlike radio, the newspaper could be perused at your pleasure, by your schedule.

So, in a sense my mother was right: the popularity of the fat Sunday newspaper was a testimony to the fact that many Americans were saying No to church and No to God.

I’ve stumbled on another lesson from the Sunday newspaper. The important stuff and the fluff can serve as a metaphor for the imbalance in our lives. In the past week, you have spent 168 hours doing something or other. Probably about 56 hours were spent sleeping, which is kind of essential. If you have a normal job, 40 hours of your week was invested in your work, plus up to 10 hours commuting. That leaves more than 60 hours for you to spend on other pursuits.

You’re on the ABC mailing list, so you are probably among those who have a desire to cultivate their relationship with the Lord. Well then, how many hours during the past week have you invested in the pursuit of spiritual aims? If you attended church, you can probably count two hours (including fellowshiping before and after). A few of you can add time spent in TLC or other Bible study groups. Do you have personal devotions? Add those hours. Maybe you should also include the reading of soul-edifying books, whether or not they are specifically Christian.

What total have you come up with? My guess is that even the most dedicated of us can’t add up more than ten hours. Some may have to answer that their number is closer to zero than to ten.

Maybe from eternity’s point of view, these hours represent the only “hard newsâ€? part of your life God reads. Maybe the rest is throwaway stuff to him. I’m not sure—just musing.

I wonder if God looks at my life the way Judy looks at the Sunday paper—most of it doesn’t get a second look. He’s got to question whether I’m worth the investment.

But then, he knew what he was buying!