On the way to church last Sunday, I saw that a friend of mine had checked in on Facebook at a Buddhist temple near her home. She had not shared a status remark, only choosing an icon that indicated she was “feeling peaceful”.
This person was not raised Buddhist. In fact, she was raised in a Christian culture but had left religion some time ago. I wondered… was she looking for God again and just happened to end up in that temple? Or did she intentionally go there seeking the peace about which she posted? I looked forward to our visit next month so we could talk about it over a meal.
But I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I pulled in to the parking lot of my own beloved place of worship.
I arrived a little late. The music had already started as I settled in to my seat and soon, the pastor began to speak. He’s an excellent teacher and normally, I don’t want to miss a word, a nuance, a pearl.
But I was distracted as I thought again about my friend who was sitting in that Buddhist temple at precisely that same moment. I wanted to understand how our experiences might be similar or how they might be different. I started asking myself why do I go to church on Sunday mornings? Was I there, like my friend, to feel peaceful? or was there something else?
(As an aside, while peace is often found at church, sometimes it just isn’t because well, there are people there. If feeling peaceful is the main reason I go, perhaps I could spare myself the effort and just go chill on the bluff over the ocean near my house by myself. Now THAT would be peaceful. A friend of mine once joked “church would be so great if it weren’t for all those people”. While we might laugh at that, if we were totally honest, we might agree. People at church sometimes just bug! Sometimes they might even snub us. And those in leadership might even fail us. We can get hurt and jaded and as a result, we might stop going. I’ve sure had my share of experiences along these lines and understand the initial emotions. But I digress.)
SO… why DO I go to church?
I know I don’t go because I think I have to or because it suddenly makes me more spiritual or because I believe it is the only place where God is found. I don’t go because I think I’m better than you; in fact, I go to church because I’m a mess, because I can sometimes lose my way and forget who I am.
I go to listen to a guy I trust share from the Bible about Christ’s character and His plan and how I get to participate in it despite how flawed I am.
I go because I need community. My grandfather used to say “if you want to become a better tennis player, than play with someone who is better than you.” I need to regularly sharpen and deepen my faith by regularly rubbing up against others who live in the way I claim to believe because frankly, sometimes my blade just gets dull.
I go to church to expose myself to even more opportunities to serve. To serve when it doesn’t fit into the schedule or when it’s unglamorous or when it’s awkward or when it costs something is service like none other. I can get pretty insular which can sometimes lead to depression and when I give or serve, I swear, it snaps me right out of it. I can serve in many places in my city and I can send a check to an NGO I trust, but to serve where you will see those people again and again… well, it’s like a shot of Vitamin B.
I go to be reminded that I’m a daughter of royalty and don’t need to be afraid of terrorism or any other earthly insecurity.
But mostly, I go to church because I’m grateful. I can’t explain to you, but even after all these years, the idea that God would still want to hang out with broken and flawed me still surprises me. So I go.
I go to join my spiritual family in showing appreciation for, honor and reverence and homage to Jesus… the One I love, trust, and to Whom I owe my life.
And oh yeah… we SING!
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”