Why go to church? It’s a great question! Especially in a time when people are choosing increasingly not to go church. There are some Sunday mornings I wake up and I long to do what people who don’t go to church on Sundays do. Read a book. Sit and sip a good cup of tea in my backyard. Meet friends for breakfast. Finish one of those half finished projects. Even as I’m saying it sounds relaxing and nothing like the scramble we sometimes face going to church. I know for many families it is their only day at home together. So why would we, why do we bother going to church?
I asked some friends on Facebook and here is some of what I got:
1. For spiritual and cultural reasons
2. For music – even it is not always fulfilling
3. For the people – not going to church would have meant missing out positive relationships.
4. Because it is the place where we are loved and welcomed
5. For the spiritual knowledge, spiritual uplift and connecting with others
6. So you can get through the week.
7. To be reminded that worship is about God. “
8. For the rich theology of hymnody.
9. The quiet contemplation of prayer.
10. The studious sharing of the sermon.
11. The gathering of the saints of God, warts and all, which affirms that I belong.
12. It is intentional community revolving around the deep mysteries of faith which are foundational to all that I have been
13. This one I can’t summarize so I quote, “I go to worship God. I think often of the quote I read, in a book that I think may have been written by Marva Dawn, of a colleague of hers who was greeted at the door with a parishioner who said they didn’t get one thing out of that service and the officiant replied, “Well it wasn’t for you, it was to worship God “. Our society’s addictions to capitalism and ME, ME, ME...are hard on a soul. Worship is one way of reminding myself that I’m not the centre. God is. In my life, in my family, clan, church community, town, my national identity as a Newfoundlander or as a Canadian, a dweller on our fragile earth. Being the centre means you have to carry it all, but being reminded that She who always was, can and will do it all with or without me is such freedom.”
For those of you who want to read more, check out Rev. Rob Cooke’s reflection “Why do we need to go to church and some response by congregation members. Links provided in my sermon on our website! (https://stmarksanglicanblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/why-do-we-need-church/?fbclid=IwAR02FRey0qBpMEkyl-RHpewU720tDBIEWd-BczF2Qfrg8U-AawjEYrF14eE and responses: https://stmarksanglicanblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/?fbclid=IwAR1kwJREzZScW__PSDH8Z0qIkqoO3PSb2ur6aackyCmuOk7sM4xPORqlIPo)
No one shared why they don’t go to church but I’m guessing that my Facebook friends group is heavy on the church attenders! I’m guessing that there as many reasons as there are that people come and the some of the reasons have to do with difficult experiences at church. One person said they go but they are barely hanging on to church attendance.
Now it’s your turn. You are here this morning? Why do you come?
I come to church because for me it is home. When I first moved to Newfoundland and Labrador, I was often homesick. I was living for the first time away from my family and friends. Sometimes I longed for the bright lights and busy streets of Toronto because that’s where Scott was and sometimes for my home in Nova Scotia filled with family and friends. I remember very clearly driving home from Nova Scotia, getting off the boat at Port Aux Basque and beginning the drive back home to Newtown. I was missing Nova Scotia already. It was Sunday morning and I was longing to feel at home. As I came up to Deer Lake I could see the church steeples and hear the church bells. I wondered – is there a United Church there? It was still early – 10 am maybe but I thought, I’m going to church. I walked through the doors and I felt that warm peace of home. I can’t tell you what we sang or what was preached but I can tell you it made the rest of the trip back to Newtown easier.
For me, I go to church for so many reasons: it is the people, it is the music, it is those fleeting but beautiful moments where it seems that God has come close, it is for the music that lifts my spirits and it is for the reminder that I am not alone in this journey through life.
As I thought about what passages from the bible to include for this week, I kept coming back to the story from the book of Acts. Church was different – in fact they probably wouldn’t have called it church. For some it was the way of Jesus. For some it was a new revelation about God. Our reading from Acts follows right on the heals of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes like a flame and gives birth to something new. After some heard Peter’s Spirit inspired sermon people asked what to do next. Peter said to repent and be baptized. Here is what is says about the early church, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to breaking the bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42 – 47)
Somethings have changed and some have stayed the same. We still break bread together –whether it is at the communion table or in our fellowship time after church. We continue to pray as a community and learn from the apostles teachings. While we don’t hold all things in common, we still do our best to ensure the welfare of people in community. The food was so important because in that early community there were people who had plenty and people who had nothing. They had different social and economic backgrounds and they had to learn to how to be one in “Christ’s body” It says it so well in Galatians, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)
This is the strength and the beauty of the church – we come from different backgrounds, different generations, different life experiences but we come here to be one in Christ Jesus. Why come to church? Because here we are all beloved children of God and together we bear Christ’s light in to the world. Amen.