I recently heard someone speaking about why it is important to come to church. Sometimes I think that kind of message is pointless at a church because the people there are already doing it!
So, why do we come to church? I do actually believe it is useful for us to ask this question!
My answers, of which there are many, come back to two words again and again: Encounter and nourishment.
We come to encounter God, to meet with him and get closer to him. We come also to encounter people. We must surely expect that there will be other people there! But essentially we are made for God and we come because of who he is. Being with others, serving, fellowshipping, worshipping together are also a key part of this.
We come to be nourished/fed/built up through worship (learning, song, prayer, Bible) so that we can be healed and restored, strengthened, transformed, empowered and fuelled ready for action.I share the above to encourage us to think about why we come to church and to challenge us, spur us on for those times when we slip away from attending church or find it easier not to come.
As the writer of Hebrews says (ch10, v25):
“Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.”
Much of our summer has been hot and dry – one we will remember for years to come (unless climate change does indeed mean that every summer is like this). It has also been memorable for us as a fellowship as more than I can remember us doing over the past 10 years, time has been spent with each other, enjoying each other’s company: growing and learning together.
An away day at Lichfield. An outing to Weston-Super-Mare. A residential trip for our young people. And all the other things we do together more regularly. It has been good. And it is important.
Psalm 133 says:
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil…”
These times are important. They strengthen us and bring us together. As Christians it is pretty obvious that we need to believe, but it is also so important that we belong.
We should do more things together!
I have always felt that there is a danger that we have made Christianity seem like something that lacks mystery and wisdom.
People pursue other religious and spiritual routes because they can often give the impression of being much more interesting. It is true that ever since being a follower of Jesus became the official faith of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century, we have lost our radical edge and something of our role of wisdom from the margins. And yet: we have the words of life; we have mystery; we have the key to eternal life; we have amazing deeds of miraculous power; and we have wisdom.
As a people we underplay too many of these things. As a people we very much underplay the fact that we have running through our faith the wisdom of ancient teachings. In the words of Jesus, for instance those that Matthew records in what we call the Sermon on the Mount, we have such strength and depth in guiding how we should live both together and as individuals. We have ancient wisdom that speaks into our hearts, challenges us and urges us on to live as more rounded individuals: loving enemies, not judging, not worrying and so much more. We neglect it our peril.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring some of this ancient wisdom in our Sunday morning services, not just for the sake of it but so we can live better, more Godly lives. I invite you to take up this opportunity to access this ancient wisdom.
A clear memory from my childhood that I have is one summer holiday wading out beyond the beach into the Somerset muddy sand at low tide with my Dad. I remember him laughing that his poor feet would be complaining as we squelched onwards getting muddier and muddier.
I thought of this again as I recently squelched through mud and soggy sand crossing over on the Pilgrim Path to Holy Island in Northumbria. I thought of my Dad and his good example to me. I thought of the thousands who had walked this way before with different motives. Some doing it for fun; some as a challenge; some tagging along, following the crowd. Some in sadness and some in joy. For those who travelled this way on foot at low tide to reach this ancient holy place this stage would be a time of great anticipation as they came for refreshing or healing, in hope, in despair or simply to worship.
And you? As you approach God, how do you come? What is our frame of mind as we approach the Creator of all things – whether through “mud” or on good firm sand? And what are we doing this for? “What are you doing here?” is the question Yahweh asks of Elijah. What are you doing here?
We were made to be together. Literally. Weren’t we?
At the beginning, The Creator says of Adam, that it is not for him to be alone. The Bible from start to finish is a story of people together. Behind it all time after time, is God our creator addressing nations: Israel, Judah, the world.
We were made to be together. We were made to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, together. So, it has been good to be reminded with our Six Weeks at Six Ways project and We Are Church, as well as all the other things that we do, together, that we are not only stronger and more effective together, but happier too and, it is simply right. It is God’s will for us.
Jesus gathered a team around him. The early followers of Jesus did what they did together. The writer to Hebrews urges the believers not to give up the habit of meeting together. It has been good to see more things happening with more of us meeting to do all sorts of things: some fellowship, some worship, some both. We don’t have to stop at six weeks.
We are made to be together, so, come on church, let’s keep meeting, let’s come up with more ways that we do that and do more things together!
For the sake of the Kingdom!
God Bless, Gerard