The Heart of the Matter
Recently I listened to a podcast of a Fuller Seminary professor talking about her research on the question of “why people go to church.” It’s a good question that maybe you too have wondered about. I know I have and over the years in my personal interactions with folks it seems that people have many reasons for coming such as: parents wanting their children to learn about God and be around good role models. People come to make friends, keep friends or just for some social interac-tion during the coffee hour. When I headed up a singles ministry I learned some people go to church in the hopes of finding a date or a mate. Some people come out of curiosity, or habit, or a desire to learn about the bible. Some come because its the only place they can sing with a group, or they just enjoy the music (that espe-cially might be true here with so many gifted musicians!). Some come because they think it’s just what “good” people do, or because it’s where their family has “always” come. All of those reasons and more are what draw people through the doors of churches every week.
Their all reasonable, even good reasons but, I think that Paul offers a glimpse into the best reason of all to come. Here’s what he wrote to Timothy in a letter: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” I Timothy 1:15-17)
When we get down to the “heart of the matter” (as Don Henley sang) the rea-son we come to church is because we recognize that we’re grateful, worshipping forgiven sinners. Exceeding every other fine reason we come because Jesus Christ has done something we cannot do for ourselves, and something we deeply long for…something we find only in him, in his presence.
We find in Christ’s presence a true and rather stark picture of who we really are. Measured up against Christ we find ourselves exclaiming as Paul did: oh, man! I’m the worst!! But, at the same time we find that Christ’s love, his grace, his for-giveness is bigger, way bigger than all our sin. We find that yes, we’re sinners, but not in the hands of an angry God as Jonathan Edwards preached, but instead in God’s immensely patient, loving and merciful hands. To find such love and grace drives us to worship God….and to do that together in church.
But, worshipping Christ doesn’t end with a benediction at the close of a Sunday morning worship service. It extends into every corner of our lives. It changes the way we see others. Filled with Christ’s Spirit we see all people as created in the im-age of God. Judgment & condemnation are replaced with God’s grace & peace for others. Stinginess & harshness are released to allow Christ’s generosity & gentle-ness to flow naturally from us. Impatience, irritability & anger give way to patience, kindness & joy. We become as faithful to Christ and the world he loves as he has been to us. And along the way we become known simply by our love just as Christ said we would be.
In short, we come to church in gratitude, in joy and in love for Christ and all he has done for us. And, we go from this place to share the rich blessings we’ve re-ceived from God with family, friends and strangers alike….every day, in every thing we say and do!