red racing car on race track during daytime
red racing car on race track during daytime

I have a recurring bad dream where I’m supposed to be preaching somewhere, always some church other than my own, and I just can’t seem to get there on time.  It happened again the other night.  I was supposed to be preaching in the church I grew up in and I just couldn’t get there before the start of the service.  There were all these obstacles in my way and it just wasn’t going to happen. 

I think I know the reason for these dreams.  It actually happened to me.  Thankfully only but once. 

It was July 30, 2000.  I’d just finished my seminary studies in Hamilton.  I’d been declared eligible for call a short while before this and received (and accepted) a call to be a missionary in north-central British Columbia.  We’d been out west to visit the sending church and spend some time with family.  Now we were back in Ontario and I was preparing for my ordination exam in October.  But on Sundays I would still be preaching around in the local Canadian Reformed Churches and this particular day found with me an invite to the Bethel CanRC in Toronto. 

I had preached in Toronto once the year before.  We were living in Brantford and Google Maps tells me that it should be about a 1.5 hour drive to where the CanRC was at the time in Thornhill.  But for some reason I thought it was more like an hour (and we didn’t have Google Maps in 2000).  So our family got into the Chevy Corsica (a.k.a. the Cursica) and set out about an hour and twenty minutes before the start of the service.  Traffic wasn’t bad on a Sunday morning, but when we got to Mississauga I realized we weren’t going to make it in time.

So rather than take the 401 highway, I thought it might be quicker to take the new (at that time) 407 toll highway.  When we got to the exit, there was still about 5 minutes left.  We could just make it.  But…instead of turning right off the exit, I turned left (as you would do when coming off the 401).  After a few minutes of driving up Canada’s longest street (Yonge), the city started thinning out and I realized we were going the wrong direction.  By now we were definitely late.  Now it was just a matter of how late we were going to be.        

We pulled a quick 180 and started racing down Yonge Street back towards the city.  What was the speed limit along there?  I didn’t know and I didn’t care.  I just had to get there.  I’d take my chances that Toronto’s finest were grabbing their Tim Hortons.    

We made it about 15 minutes late.  They had started the service.  An elder was leading and he was almost at that point in the service where he’d have read the text for the emergency reading sermon they kept on hand.  I came rushing in quite apologetically and was still able to preach and lead the rest of the service. 

Now there was just one problem:  my sermon.  The sermon I planned to preach that morning was on Judges 1:22-26.  That passage is about the house of Joseph successfully taking Bethel, but at the cost of a deal with one of the residents.  None of these residents were supposed to live, not one.  In the second point of the sermon, I told the congregation of how this was an example of obeying one of God’s commandments at the expense of others.  Out of thankfulness for what Christ has done, that can’t be our way.  And this was one of the applications I’d planned to make there in Toronto that morning:

And what about you sleeping in one Sunday morning? The only way you’re going to get to church in time is to break the speed limit. The Christian with the Spirit of Christ in his heart knows that he may not play off God’s command to be in church with the command to obey the civil authorities who place speed limits on our roads.

We hadn’t slept in – only underestimated the travel time.  Nonetheless, I couldn’t bring myself to preach this knowing I’d just done that very thing!

After the service, the elders tried to console me by telling me I was a good student of my preaching professor.  A few weeks earlier, he’d done exactly the same thing, though I’m not sure whether his tardy arrival involved speeding.

Perhaps there’s no profound lesson to be learned here.  I’m just telling the story in the hopes that it’ll exorcise this fear continuing to haunt my dreams.  Can you imagine anything worse than being late to preach?  Well, there is something worse, but that story will have to wait for another time.