Yep, I mean what I titled this post. Sunday morning attendance means absolutely nothing.
Why do you come to church at all? That’s a question that most preachers won’t ever get you to ask yourself. A preacher getting you to ask that question is like a Major Brand financial advisor asking you to compare their product with what’s really in your best interest. There’s too much risk you won’t stick around. A lot of preachers – and believe me I really understand this – live mostly in fear of people leaving church because questions like that start being asked.
I have been reflecting on this question. Why would I come to church, that is, if I wasn’t a preacher? You should be able to imagine that I think about that, right? I think about it quite a bit, actually. It would have way less to do with that God requires it, or heaven forbid that God casts you into the ever-living lake of fire if you don’t. Actually, it would have not just way less, but nothing at all to do with that.
At the heart of it, I think for myself it would be mostly (if not all) about engaging a spiritual practice. And for that reason, Sunday morning attendance means absolutely everything.
I’ve heard people talk about faithfulness as a long commitment in the same direction. I guess you could say it depends on what church you are going to, but the spiritual practice of weekly worship attendance over a long time is that constant, intentional placement of oneself in the presence of God. The spiritual practice of gathering and eating at the table of Jesus is that constant, intentional placement of oneself in the presence of Others – similar and different – who come desiring like you to be near Jesus. The spiritual practice of gathering, sharing, feeding, listening, being open, is that constant, intentional practice of exposure to the heart of God’s vision for all creation: a people on the earth loving God and loving neighbor.
Sunday morning attendance means absolutely everything. And that’s why I come to church.
VitalPastor.com :: Bringing myself and others into a vital faith with Jesus
Read this carefully and try to read it slowly, slowly several times, and take in the full implication of this.
That sacred seventh day … a relief and relaxation from labor … not to free men only, but also to slaves, and even to beasts of burden … even every species of plant and tree; for there is no shoot, and no branch, and no leaf even which it is allowed to cut or to pluck on that day … but everything is at liberty and in safety on that day, and enjoys, as it were, perfect freedom. -Philo, Life of Moses, 2.4.21-22
Pentecost is celebrated this Sunday. Let me say a little about Pentecost.
For us who are Christians (and I don’t assume that everyone reading this holds for themselves a Christian identity – in fact I know some don’t), Pentecost takes on meaning in light of Acts 2. In that chapter the disciples were waiting, waiting per the instructions of Jesus after his resurrection before he ascended. They were waiting for something, but all they knew was that this something would give them power to be witnesses (which is only partly about speech and words, and mostly about living a way of life, so that “God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” would become more and more the reality everywhere in the earth.)
They were waiting for what became known as a Gift, the gift of the Spirit, which is a gift that infuses all the world and all of life with the presence and the reality of Jesus. Remember that the vast multitude who were gathered to listen to Peter’s sermon that day were from every nation on the earth, with every language represented, and with the Gift of the Spirit came the ability to understand one another against that great divide of language and culture. The Spirit filled those gathered there and was carried and shared throughout all the world.
That is a comfort to me. It is a strength against my strong bent toward the tidal wave of fearful reactions brought on by a world filled with anxiety and fear that constantly threatens to pull me into its undertow. The Spirit is a comfort and strength for us all.
The Spirit is given so that we might center ourselves in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as a decided way of life for ourselves and for the sake of the world.
This is what Pentecost is all about. That is what it means to be witnesses.