The ever-changing fads and follies of the Internet age never cease to amaze me. Take for instance, the inexplicable popularity of the “Lying Down Game” also known as Planking. Planking involves somebody lying flat on their stomach in unusual or different environments … think of it as extreme sleeping. A relatively unknown pastime for most of its history, planking has in the last couple of years become a burgeoning Internet craze that has attracted thousands of fans right across the world. Australia seems to be a particular hub for plankers. Photographs of their exploits are usually shared through social media sites such as Facebook. The more crazy the pose, the funnier the picture, or the more dangerous the circumstances of the plank the more fame and notoriety to be gained when your picture is posted.
And the more potentially devastating the consequences can turn out. The Planking community found this out recently when a young man plunged to his death after “planking” on a seventh-story balcony in Brisbane’s inner-south. Local news reports that Acton Beale, aged 20, fell from the balcony of a unit block on Main Street in Kangaroo Point shortly before 4.30am. He was trying to lay face down on the balcony railing of his apartment when he suddenly fell. Paramedics spent 20 minutes trying to revive Mr Beale at the scene, however, he died a short time later. (Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/planking-death-man-plunges-from-balcony-20110515-1entn.html#ixzz1NHcshmkk)
The tragic death of this young man is a poignant reminder that anything taken too far – even lying down – can be deadly. But then we Christians already knew this didn’t we? In the book of acts we have a 2000 year old example of the dangers of this kind of extreme sleeping. Act 20:7 -9 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead.
Let the reader understand … sleeping where you oughtn’t is no laughing matter. It can be literally life or death. So why do so many good Christian men and women still do it? And not just on those hot summer days when the church is a little too stuffy, or those oh-so-early Sunday mornings when the children wouldn’t go to sleep the night before, or the neighbours were up to all hours having a loud party again. I’m not talking about those days when the heart is willing but the flesh is just too tired. I’m talking about all those times when the body is present, but the heart and the mind are off soaring through the neighbourhood, or riding on the backs of camels in distant lands. When the body is sitting in the pew while the mind settles down on any and every wild and wonderful plank floating around this world of ours. Our bodies going through all the motions of prayer and worship, with our hearts and minds soundly asleep at the wheel.
Or those dear brothers and sisters who get through their Sunday mornings only to lay down for the next six days. The spiritual life laid right out on the living room floor, being stepped around every morning on the way to work, being tripped over on the way out for friends and activities in the evening. The family Bible sitting on the bookshelf neatly holding its place under a layer of dust, the Church’s bulletin being shuffled around the kitchen table until it is tossed in the paper recycling bin on Tuesday or Wednesday. How many have fallen into the habit of planking their faith on top of their dressers, or on a shelf in the closet? A little show here or there, just enough to get a picture and a favourable reaction.
It is a recipe for disaster. A tragedy in the making. A little harmless fun, that can lead to a life and death fall without warning. Church is meant to be a rest for your soul … but not by simply lying down in the middle of your busy life. Nor by making a game of it. Worship is true rest when we find ourselves in Christ, alive to His promises, awake to His gifts, living and active in His love. This kind of rest brings rejuvenation and life. Much like Paul did for poor Eutychus, when he rushed down and brought him back to life right there on the ground there outside of the building.
For that’s what God does. He awakens sleepers. He gives life to the dead. He picks up the fallen and the plankers alike. Maybe it’s time to wake up … to get up … and hear that Good News once again.