I spent the last almost three weeks on vacation. It was a time relaxation, refreshment, and restoration. It was a time of unplugging, unwinding, and uninterrupted space. It was a time of sabbath. And because most Sundays I am in church, I experienced not going to church. On Sundays, it turns out lots of people are eating brunch, exercising, spending time with their families, enjoying nature, working, or just enjoying a good read. And for a couple of weeks, I did just that.
The weeks away got me thinking: why do we go to church on Sundays, when there are so many other things we could be doing? As I contrasted the time of not going to church with my years of going to church, I realized I go to church for so many reasons – some big and some small. The big ones may be obvious. I want to connect with, learn about, and feel loved by God. I want a sense of community, where I belong and am known. I want a sense of purpose rooted in Jesus’ command to love God, self, and neighbor.
The small ones are less obvious. I love the beauty of the people in church: the elders laughing heartily, children and their looks of wonder and their awesome questions, people caring for the needs of others when they think no one is looking. I love the power of music: from the familiar song that takes me back to fond place, to the unfamiliar song with a lyric that blows my mind, to the transcendent way harmonizing voices can bring me to tears for some unknown reason. I love the little moments: when an invitation to prayer reminds me of a hurting loved one, when sharing the peace with someone with whom I have had hard feelings dissolves all tension, when the burn of the communion wine down my throat lingers for several minutes – as if Christ is not ready to leave me yet, when the light shines just so on the cross, reminding me once again of the big stuff of Church.
Going to Church every week gives me a sense of belonging – to God and to other people, gives me a sense of meaning in a world that is often confounding, and gives me a sense of hope. Maybe you have gotten out of the habit of going to Church, for a hundred little and good reasons. If so, I invite you to shake things up this week and try Church again. Maybe you left the Church in hurt or never really were introduced to Church. If so, I invite you to consider stepping in the doors and giving the Church a chance to share Christ’s love with you. Or maybe you go to Church every Sunday, but things have begun to feel stale. If so, I invite you to take a deep breath, sit in a different place, or simply allow yourself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit. I invite you to my Church this week – for some of the reasons here, for your own reasons, or for reasons unknown to you. I will be there with open arms, ready to introduce you to a group of awesome people, on the same journey to know our awesome God.