How many of you, especially parents, have heard your children say, “But mommy/daddy, I don’t want to go to church!” Or, “Do we have to go to church? Have you ever struggled with the answer to this question?
“Going to church”…what a negative and limiting thought!! Sometimes I think we have a mixed up way of looking at church. We just started a sermon series on relationships and I think one of our relationships deals with us, each of us, as the gathered body of Christ…said differently…the church. When you read your Bible, you find that the first century church was a gathering of God’s people who came to be strengthened in God and went into the world to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ – you know, that often used phrase, “we are the hands and feet of Jesus”. Marva Dawn, in one of her many books, ‘Keeping the Sabbath Wholly’, says, “Now, the church has become a static place, to which believers go for tired and tiring rituals.” If you look at what we believe as Presbyterians, because I am sometimes asked this question, you will find the following: Christian worship joyfully ascribes all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God. In worship the people of God acknowledge God present in the world and in their lives…In worship the faithful offer themselves to God and are equipped for God’s service in the world. (PCUSA Book of Order)
Look again at the above quote from Marva Dawn…in her book she continues that thought with the following, “We are NOT going to church! We are going to a sanctuary to participate in an order of worship together with other people of God gathered in community to be nourished by all that we do there together so that we can go out into the world and BE THE CHURCH.”
In Matthew’s gospel, as part of the Sermon on the Mount…Jesus was talking about being the church when he said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
“Be the church…” What does that mean to you?
This new year…if you would like to reflect on what it means to be a member of a church, you can use the following as a guide…after all, it is what we Presbyterians believe. “Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission. A faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ’s Church. Such involvement includes:
- proclaiming the good news in word and deed,
- taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation,
- lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,
- studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,
- supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,
- demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
- responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
- living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
- working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,
- participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and
- reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.
(Source: PCUSA Book of Order G-1.0304)