Sunday, October 26, 2014

“Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God.” ― Stanley Hauerwas

Lots of people don't want to go to church because it is filled with hypocrites.  Yes, it is.  They don't want to go because many of the people there just want to be seen at church.  That's true, too.  It's because we are all human and the church is full of imperfect humans, but that is no reason not to go.  Over the years, as a pastor, I have heard many reasons why people who profess Christianity don’t go to church.  I have been to some churches that I wouldn’t attend either, but that’s not the point.  We need to have our batteries recharged and no matter how expensive or high tech your smart phone is, without charged batteries it is worthless.  A lot of wives come without their husbands, but I remember one instance where it was the other way around.  The wife finally came and all the strife that had been present in that family went away, but that’s another story.  Perhaps this story, which I'm sure you've heard before, will help explain things a little.
      A country pastor was out visiting one of his members, a wife who always came with her children but without her husband.  It was a farm couple, and as it was evening, the pastor found himself sitting by the fire with the husband as the wife put the children to bed.  The husband said, “Now, I’m a Christian, but I don’t need church.  My farm and the outdoors is all I need to get close to God.”  The pastor didn’t reply, but he did take the poker from the rack and pulled a burning coal from the fire.  He sat silently while its flame died and and it became black and cold.  Then, with a look at the husband, the pastor pushed the dead coal back into the fire where it immediately burst into flame and was living once more.  The pastor sat back, still without speaking.  The farmer sat for a minute, and then said, “Ok, I see your point.  I’ll be there next Sunday.”  
       It is like the quote from Stanley Hauerwas above, we need each other because it is difficult to follow Christ on your own.  Church can recharge your batteries in many ways.  As a pastor, I was never so vain as to think that the sermon was the only way God spoke to those who came.  The choir, the windows, the touch of a friend, the quiet before the service, a lively Sunday School discussion, or maybe even the children’s sermon all teach, preach, touch, and inspire.  Go and be open to accept God’s message in whatever form it arrives for you, but go.  Yes, there will be sinners there because it is a hospital for sinners.  Still, if you make church attendance the mooring point around which your world revolves, you will be amazed at the effect.  If the church you are attending doesn’t do it for you, find another or change the one you’re in.  Church is for you not you for the church.  What is important is that your coal is alight and bringing heat into the cold of this hard world.  That is most easily achieved by being with and surrounded by others who also love and follow Christ and will share their warmth and love with you.  God is with you wherever you are but being with others who are struggling as you are will help you in so many ways.  God bless all of you who make Sunday special.
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