Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Sunday Struggle or Why It's Really Hard to Go to Church

Most Sundays (nearly all of them) I really don't like going to church. I would rather do anything else. Sit around in my pajamas, eat a second breakfast, go shop, or just putz around. 

Some of you are shocked I know, but there are a lot of you Christians (you know who you are) who feel my pain, and experience the same Sunday struggle. 

My reasons for not wanting to go to church are quite often created at the last minute and really not substantial; I am tired, I have nothing to wear, I have to get my child ready, and go on my own, because my husband is a part of the service (when I married a minister it made skipping more 
Just Climbing the Steps looks Scary!

But sometimes there are real things about church which can make it a real challenge. You have to see a certain person who will annoy you, people will ask you to do things for them, they may make you stand-up and talk, ask you to serve in some way, and it’s confusing, if not downright intimidating. Why are they kneeling? How do I dip my wafer in the cup? They may ask for your money, you will have to be friendly and kind when you don’t feel it, the message of the preacher will challenge you or make you uncomfortable, the minister’s flaws, inadequacies, or comments drive you crazy, those around you will promote certain political or social beliefs that greatly offend you, sometimes a brother or sister will say something rude, they might shush your children, judge your outfit, or any number of little sinful things.  Some of us have had very hurtful experiences in church or Christian community (and this not a laughing matter and one that God takes very seriously) that make it challenging to return. All of these are real reasons that make church difficult and they happen all the time. 

After I had my “come-to-Jesus” moment I had this nagging thought I should go to church again. It would not go away, but finally, I went and Oh, Lord! How I judged those poor people. They were so not cool. I couldn’t believe I was in their company. I often thought, “This is lame. I should go.” Now, please don’t stop reading here! I don’t want my husband to get fired.  
If church can be a real drag, why do we go? There are a lot of great theological reasons, so I will focus on one. Church is a crucifixion of the flesh. We go because it is what Jesus desires for us and his people, and as Christians, it’s not about our wants but his. We go because we love him and going to church is a way to show that love. 
And we find that, at church, Jesus has very different standards for his people than we do. He seems to never be offended by how uncool, annoying, flawed, or remedial their theology may be. He seems to know that when we are challenged, put-on, or rubbed the wrong way, we are molded into more loving, generous, and humble people, people who can love those who are different, those who undesirable, or challenging. People that are more like him. 

Worship Service at Trinity - I came a long way from the early days!
After a time of forcing myself to go to church and judging the people around me, one of them, an elderly lady came-up to me and handed me a newspaper article she had cut-out entitled, “Soul Friend.” “This is how I think of you,” she said putting her arm around my waist. “You are a wonderful young lady.” This is how she thought of me and how I had judged her, how I had judged them all. In that moment, I realized I was not so much worthy to tie her sandals. I realized that I was the annoying, judgmental, and undesirable one. That they wanted me there in the first place was a freaking miracle, one that reflects that miraculous love of God, which as we know, is also completely irrational, unmerited, unearned, but freely given to undesirables. That she had thought of me enough during her week and cut out this little piece of paper for me, was just too much. This same church months later, supported me - the great offender and moralizer - the whole time I was in seminary.
That was about six years ago and I am still changing my attitude about church. It seems when I go when I don’t want too miraculous things happen, not all the time, but they definitely do. When we crucify our flesh we see God, and sometimes, not always, when I am at church, I feel the gates of heaven open. The singing, the coming together, the taking of God’s sacraments, are theophanous – a divine encounter. And we are part of that heavenly choir, all worshipping the Father and truly, I am not kidding, the people around me are transformed. They appear to have a dignity, nobility, and grace that I had not previously noticed and we are God’s people together. God is in his Holy Temple and his sweet, life-giving presence is making all things new. 

I leave the service, and my heart is lighter, I am elevated, I have been blessed by the presence of Christ in his people, and I may share that love with my brothers and sisters. We embrace, we share encouragements, garden vegetables, hand - me - down baby clothes, and we share our pains and joys. And when I leave, I often think, “We’ll its probably good I went today.”
Praise God for his holy church, warts and all. After all, who am I to judge it, when he died for it, and they actually allow someone like yours truly to be a part of it.
This is an important topic, one that I barely scratched the surface of. Greater minds than I have tackled it, so I encourage us all to keeping thinking about why do we go to church? Here's an interesting link by the Fr. Barron

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