Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Obligation

  I love Luke 4:16, which tells us that, on the Sabbath day, Jesus went to the synagogue “as was his custom.” People seem to adore the 10 commandments – but are not so attentive to #4: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Back on January 3, I asked what you guys thought and wondered about regarding church. Several asked if attending worship is a necessity – and Isn’t it okay or even good to take a skip now and then and enjoy skiing or sipping coffee? I laughed out loud when I read such questions – chuckling at the notion that I could answer Yes, you must come! and people would actually forego skiing and coffee and never miss church again!

Most of us reading this have the luxury of making such choices. You can afford to do other things. I think of people in the world, in poor churches in America or in places like Haiti where we do mission work, who frankly can’t go anywhere – so they show up, without fail, to church. I think of places in the world where Christianity is suppressed – and how Christians will light candles in secret on the Sabbath, defying wicked governments that won’t allow you to worship on Sunday.

I have no legislation on this, and you wouldn’t obey me if I tried! I do know a lot of people who just go to church. Always. On vacation. People with uber-demanding jobs. I do not believe their habit of always finding a church and getting there harms them in any way. We might say I need to ski, or relax. Which is fine. But my question for me is How do I honor God? How do I live into what I say my priority is – that God is first, that God is everything?

Showing up matters. My kids’ birthdays and ballet recitals? My mother’s surgery? Going to work Monday morning? Getting to the big game?  You show up. You don’t say Hey, I’ll ski instead, or I need to relax with my coffee. I wonder if your life, and if then the world would be a better, more joyful, humble, faithful place if, come Sunday morning, we all just show up. Good Friday? You materialize. Ash Wednesday? Falls on my anniversary every few years – and my wife insists that we go, wherever we are. I love her, and us for this.

In my little book, Worshipful, I told of a woman in my previous church who was hard of hearing, and then over time became entirely deaf. But she kept appearing in her pew, every Sunday without fail. I wrote her a note, told her I loved seeing her – but why did she come? She couldn’t hear the sermon, or the music, or converse with the people. She wrote me a note in reply saying She didn’t come for the sermon, or the music, or even the people. She came for God. She suggested that she was finding it to be even more worshipful for her, with all the racket shut out, so she could focus on God.

Church matters. Showing up for Church matters

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