Skip to main content

why are we here?


As someone who has been a faithful "church-goer" for all of her life, I realize that sometimes when I show up at a gathering of those who love and worship God, I have lost sight of why I am there.  It has simply become habit and I feel guilt if I don't include it.  I hesitate to even use the phrase "going to church" because it diminishes a vibrant, organic community into attendance at a meeting.  We no more "go to church" than we "go to family."  It is not a location nor an event - not even a classroom where attendance is taken, though I certainly hope we learn something when we come together.  I am a part of Church if I am a part of Christ.  It is that simple.  How I live that out is a whole other matter, however.  Here are a few thoughts on why we gather in regular meetings.  These ideas were first presented at a talk in a church in Manitoba this past Sunday.

1. To remember whom we belong to.  In a previous post about my reluctance to visit a church gathering while on vacation (see my blog here), I recounted how my desire to skip a weekly meeting of people who love God because I would rather go to the beach reflected my ingratitude.  I had lost sight of the fact that my entire life, including the pleasant vacation I was on, was all because of God's goodness.  My reluctance to set aside my own wishes for a few hours in order to honour this generous God reflected my forgetfulness in this area.  I need to remind myself regularly that this is not my life to do with as I please.  It is not my own efforts or goodness that keep the universe going or good things happening in my life.  This is God's world.  This is God's time.  This is God's life.  His goodness makes all of this possible (whatever my "this" is at the moment).  Coming to a faith gathering (church) is a place to get a holy perspective and remind ourselves that it all begins and ends with God.  My story becomes swallowed up in his story.  I remember that he is the initiator of this love story and I am the responder.  And I want to be a great responder to the love and grace of God in my life.  So I start by making space to remember whom I belong to.

2.  To build community.  Community simply means that we do this together with others and we hold certain things in common.  The interesting and challenging thing about families is that we don't get to choose them.  They are pre-selected and very often, we find this selection not quite to our liking.  Family members sometimes annoy us; we have to share and take turns; we have to learn to prefer one another; we have to manage our anger; we have to learn to be patient.  When we belong to a family, we can't pick up our toys and go home when we get tired of the company - we ARE home!  In the same way, we do not get to pick and choose our faith community.  God picks the ones he places around us, and he almost always picks people we would not have chosen.  We prefer those who look and think and act like we do - easy relationships.  God picks those who poke at our irritations, who expose our weaknesses, and who need more help than we can give.  A perfect community (or family) is not built by surrounding ourselves with perfect people, but by letting God perfect his love, his grace, and his kingdom in us.  This is what wholeness is all about.  As Church, we are united in Christ, and if this is not strong enough to keep us committed to each other, then we need to take a good look at what we have substituted as our bonding agent.

3.  To be healed and made whole; spiritual maturity.  I put this point last because in my opinion, it is really a by-product of the first two.  Sometimes spiritual maturity or personal healing can be the main reason that we come to a faith community, and it is not a bad place to start, but it is a rather small and self-absorbed place to remain.  Early on, I should recognize that Church is not a gift for me to exploit and use for my own self-improvement.  We as Church are here to offer ourselves daily and weekly to God because of the goodness that is already present in our lives.

On a good day, these are the reasons why I show up at a gathering of those who love God.  On a bad day, I show up because I need to be reminded of them.

The photo:  The Winkler airport on a summer evening in September.  One of those evenings you just can't take your eyes off the changing sky.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

fun with hermeneutics

I am a reader. The stacks of books in my bedroom, living room, and office, many of them still waiting to be cracked open, testify to this fact. I love to read, but I also know that not all reading is the same. Some is more work and some is more pleasure. A light work of fiction requires little of me but to engage my imagination and be carried away by the story. Online reading requires a bit (or a lot) of discernment to make sure the sources are reliable and the facts check out. Academic reading requires me to reason through the arguments being made and connect them to what I already know or have read in the field. Reading an ancient text requires that I suspend my 21st century perspective as best I can and learn a bit about the worldview and language of the time. Acknowledging a text's context, intent, and genre enables me to hear the words and ideas in such a way that my view of history and the world are enlarged.

Reading, interpreting, and understanding the Bible are important …

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…