Last Sunday, I was looking out on the “crowd” at both of our faith communities…I was praying for our journey in faith together as well as the mission that Jesus has given us all to serve, love and share the good news of His kingdom. As I was thinking about you and praying for you, I thought I would quickly give you encouragement on WHY you should consider worship participation weekly one of your highest, personal priorities. In spite of all that goes on in ALL of our lives, there really are good reasons for you to be at worship weekly:
So, what are good reasons for you to go to church?
First of all, start with the absolute right reason – the briefest reason – and at very least, the right biblical reason:
God has showered his creation with His unconditional love – we are made by His own hand – we are his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and because of that truth, you and I want to respond to that gift by praising Him, learning more about Him, and by surrounding myself with people who will encourage one another in our walk with Him.
Sounds good huh? If that’s true for you, and I imagine it is at least in part, that’s a great reason!
Reason number one on WHY to worship regularly in our faith community is this – the only appropriate response to the gift of life is worship. Do you know what that means? Worship is an acknowledgment that what we have in life, all of it is a gift! And because of that, God is WORTHY to be praised! God is worthy to be praised because of the gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, breath, health, family, friends…list goes on and on.
The second best reason for you to be at worship has to do with your spiritual journey. For some reason that we can only attribute to God, you realize in the depth of your gut somehow that HOW you are believing is not complete and that you are on a journey. You realize, like I do, that you are not perfect and you need to be at worship so that God can remind you of that fact and draw you to Himself in love.
Friends – this is how it is:
We journey through life…daily life…24 hours….we live, work, sleep, eat, do our jobs around the house. We discuss, we relax, we do our daily stuff and we do it day after day after day. We just go about our daily life and work. We wake up to a dog eat dog world with growing dis-ease and unhappiness and loneliness and stress. Yet over time, the truly honest and reflective among us start to wonder that there has got to be MORE to life than anxiety, doing stuff, making money, etc. Sooner or later every person comes face to face with a question – “is that all there is?”
Some refuse to go “there” or flippantly blow past that question in their pursuit to master reality or at least be the master of their OWN reality (which they will never do). But most of us would intuitively say, “NO – there’s got to be more.” For most, if not all of us, we know that there’s got to be more because when we’re doing other, less mundane activities – resting, dreaming, painting, making music, telling stories or simply playing, something inside of us comes alive.
I bet you don’t know this but scientists are telling us these days that there are inexplainable realities of human existence that are hard-wired into our sense of being. They are saying that there is meaning beyond the mundane and daily existence that we all live. Could it be that God has hard-wired for a spiritual journey? I believe so! That something inside of us, what the Bible calls our spirit/heart, betrays our narcissism and our belief in a “reality only” world. Our spirit, our heart gives us another world to investigate, explore and to live in because there is more to life than just what we see on a daily existence level. What is kind of amazing (at least this is my guess) is that most of our neighbors think that we go to church because we believe in something. For many of us that is true…I believe in things – you do too. BUT what many of our neighbors DON’T know is that in our church gatherings, we stand on and rely most of the time on just the opposite – we adhere to and hold on to the fact that being together, praying, reading, singing, opening ourselves up to the Mystery of God’s presence and love shapes what we believe. Participating in church leads to believing; practicing our faith bolsters our faith; the rituals of our faith change what the world means and how we live in it. Our trust in Jesus creates new worlds and those worlds alter the everyday world.
Although we share everyday life with many people whose story is mostly based on fear, limitation, and scarcity, Jesus reminds us that a person living fully in God has few fears. To be “in Christ” means to experience a kind of freedom from the tyranny of our ego or other’s egos. To be “in Christ” means more fully becoming the children of God that we were created to be. To be “in Christ” affirms our baby steps through life as a journey of discovery of more and more of who God is and can be in this life. It is providing us each and together with a sense of security in insecure times and giving us a sense of freedom that can’t be given to us by any other means but Jesus.
What are we doing in worship? We are sorting through our mixed motives and mysterious desires. We are learning God’s story again. We freely admit we are on a journey together and that we need each other, we need community in order to experience the world the way that God created it to be experienced. We are returning home so that we can go with power into the everyday world.
The third and final reason (at least for this letter of encouragement) we go to church because it is our CHOICE – we are proactively shaping our lives by acting on a God-sized vision of who God is creating us to be.
A number of years ago, a good friend put a book into my hands that addressed how our lives are formed in a positive, healthy manner. The book said, “we all need to A.C.T.”
ACT – Awareness, Create a vision, Take Action on that vision
Every week at church – that’s exactly what we do. Biblically, our confession is our awareness that we are broken. It is our sharing in public that we need healing…that we need love and we need Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we have received a Godly vision, one given to us by God to “love God, love others, live like Jesus.” We want to make life complicated, but Jesus doesn’t. He has a vision of grace that He gives to us …a gift of forgiveness offered freely for the receiving. That’s what we do regularly in worship. But more than that, we challenge each other to understand (and own) that God empowers us through His Spirit to act on that vision. You see friends, faith is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can take steps of belief. We are, in many respects, just like the apostle Peter walking on water – we are always beckoned by Jesus to take our steps out of the boat of security. Friends, faith is a gift of God but it is also an act of the will, That’s why it is an act of the will to attend church so that we can continue to have that faith explored, nurtured, and strengthened.
The closest friends that Jesus had were the most doubtful, fallen, confused bunch of dudes that you could ever imagine. We can easily come to the conclusion in reading the Bible that absolute adherence is NOT the gospel way. Faith working itself out in love – faith and action – taking steps out of the boat side by side – sinking and being raised again – growing in our trust of Jesus with each other – learning His will, His truth, and His ways – that’s what we do in worship together.
Think about this as I close this note of encouragement – faith – there is a cognitive aspect to it but it is not PURELY or dependent upon the intellect. That is why we have things we call the Sacraments – because the mysteries of God pull us into another reality. Jesus is present in Communion? Really? How? Well, we really don’t know…but we know by virtue of His promises that He is and because of that, we know He is calling us, just as He did with Peter, to take steps together out of the boat and into the swirling seas of life, depending on nothing more than His presence and promises.
Here’s where I want to end because I don’t want you to EVER DOUBT what I am all about when it comes to why I do what I do. I want to do life in Jesus with people. I want to do what I just have been talking about – taking steps of faith, responding to God’s amazing grace and love. And I especially want to act on this vision – I want to create with you a space for ALL people to contemplate God and their lives, to explore the love of God and the need they have for love in their hearts, to consider God and their pain in a space of freedom and acceptance and then to journey together to encourage others to do the same. We need to be building rooms for people to explore the journey of faith. We need to be building a faith community where we give people space to NOT be certain but to figure things out in the presence and grace of Jesus Christ and in the company of the Holy Spirit. We need to be building a faith community that is dedicated to telling the “old, old story – of Jesus and His love.”
You may not be able to fully articulate it – but you should be drawn to weekly worship! Yeah, you could download a sermon, listen to podcast, and get together with people to share life. Jesus did say, “where two or more are gathered, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18). But you know, deep in your heart, that of which the Spirit of God has been convincing you, true living and true meaning and true belonging is not passive. True belonging isn’t about fitting in or selling out but rather it is a practice that is open, vulnerable, at times uncomfortable, where you are learning how to be present with Jesus and other people.
Friends, never doubt this – Church attendance isn’t about cowardliness and it is never a crutch – it is rather a HUGE act of courage. Yes, courage where you are choosing what is right and meaningful over what is easy or convenient or that which only brings pleasure to your senses. Jesus followers want to be in a place regularly and enthusiastically where you are a partner in creating safe spaces for people to explore abundant life in Jesus and to do life together in Jesus. That’s why I pray you make a commitment to weekly worship! That’s why I pray we will be encouragers of people to join our journey. For to convert them, that’s Jesus’ job. But we can walk with them in discovering more and more of the life that God intends for ALL of us to experience.
Where will you be THIS Sunday?
Sincerely shared with you in love…