March 24 2019
Preached by Dr. Terry Swicegood
One of my biggest disappointments in life is that my children, my beloved daughter and son do not attend church. My grandchildren do not attend church. My children were reared in church and they know how important church is to Barbara and me.
Barbara and I have been church goers since the time we were carried there as infants. We were married in a Methodist Church. Our children were baptized in Presbyterian churches. We kept our baptismal promises by taking our children to church every Sunday as they grew up. We did our best to live Christian lives imperfectly we pulled it off. But our children married non church goers. Our children are great people, and so are their spouses. But they don=t go to church, and I believe that they are missing something vital. They don=t have a quarrel with the church. They are not in the population of folk who say that the church is filled with hypocrites. It’s just that it’s not all that important to them.
When you drove to church today two out of every three of your neighbors chose not to. On an average Sunday, 2/3 of all Americans will find something else to do rather than go to church, Interestingly enough many of these claim to believe the same things you believe. In fact, I was surprised to learn that 2/3 of the Americans who do not attend church believe in God, believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, believe in heaven, and pray to God.
But the fact of the matter is, the average American comes to church three times in his life: when he is hatched, matched and dispatched: baptized, married, and buried. The first time you throw water on them, the second time rice, the third time dirt.
So today I would like to tell you why I think my children and grandchildren should go to church, and for that matter, yours too.
For openers I attend church because if I didn’t Donna Davis wouldn’t write me a pay check every two weeks. No, I attend church because the church is a caring and transforming community. I told our three communicants last week that church membership is about two things: when we join the church we join a family of faith. And when we join the church we publicly confess our faith in Jesus Christ
Let’s think about this for a second, being part of a caring and transforming community, a family of faith if you will.
I took my children to church because I knew early on that they would need guideposts in this godless, secular culture. It’s nigh near impossible to go it alone in this life without help and guidance from on high. Much like Jennifer Dorr recently described in this post, AI want my children to think about their values on a daily basis, and that is difficult to do in a secular society in which children are running from school to sport to homework. I want my kids to have spiritual community.@
My daughter was particularly rebellious about going to church as a teenager. She showed her displeasure by dressing like someone the dog dragged in, clothes wrinkled, hair a tangled mess. On more than one occasion she asked why we made her go to church when most of her friends didn’t. I explained that it is important to take care of our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our spirits. I suggested that some of the ways that we take care of our body are by eating healthy, exercising and playing sports. We take care of our mind by going to school. We take care of our heart by being with our families, friends and people we love. And some of the ways we can take care of our spirit is by praying and going to church.
And second church is important to me because it offers me an opportunity worship once a week.
If you’ve ever been to the middle east and watched an oriental rug being made, you notice that the weaver does all of his work from behind the loom. Every now and then he will come out from behind the loom and look at the pattern he has been weaving. If there is a error here, or a lack of symmetry over here, he will go back behind the loom again, and take out some stands, or pull other strands more tightly.
Six days a week you and I are working from behind our loom, weaving the pattern of our lives. But on the seventh day we step from behind the loom and we look at the pattern we have been weaving. We compare that pattern with the pattern that was set on Mt. Sinai or the Mt. Of the Beatitudes. When we step out from behind the loom each Sunday, we see which strands of our lives need to be altered. When we worship each Sunday, we get a perspective on our lives that we will find nowhere else.
William Temple, the late Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse by one thing only and this is worship.”
He may be right. I believe that worship can do that for the world. But I also believe that worship holds enormous possibilities for us as individuals.
Whether we are young, fresh from the starting gates, with most of the race before us, whether we are of middle age, fending off the destruction that wastes at midday, or whether we are in our latter years, living under the sharply slanting rays of a setting sun, I believe–with my whole heart I believe–that we can do nothing more meaningful or therapeutic for ourselves and others, than to be faithfully present, week by week, month by month, for the worship of Almighty God.
Tucked away in the first chapter of John is a brief story that we usually pass over without notice. But we shouldn’t. It’s significant. It’s a story about Andrew who has an encounter with Jesus and goes and tells his brother about it with the words, “Come and see.” His brother, of course, was Simon Peter. He didn’t say a lot to his brother, only come and see for yourself.
In this coming year I would like to make those three words the watchword of our life together. Come and see.
Just now think of someone you love who does not attend church—a friend, a neighbor, a family member. Pray for that person every day, that God would give you just the right moment and right words to say to entice them to come to church.
What we find is that our visitors like it here. A mother from another state whose daughter has been attending was asked by her daughter, “Well, what did you think?”
“It feels like home,” the mother replied.
We Presbyterians are pretty skeptical of being pushy about our faith. We are leery of those evangelicals who put the hard sell on us. Someone says a Presbyterian evangelist is someone who knocks on your door and doesn’t know what to say when you answer it. It’s sad isn’t it? We can talk about spring training games, or the weather, or politics, but we stammer when it comes to putting into words what our faith means.
For those of you who have a hard time sharing the details of your faith, let me suggest this approach. Evangelism is nothing more than one thirsty person telling another where water is to be found. At its simplest and best, evangelism is telling an unchurched friend, ” Evangelism is saying, “My church and my faith mean a lot to me. Could I meet you for the 9:30 service next Sunday and we’ll sit together.”
Come and see. The finest achievement for any Christian is to introduce another person to Jesus Christ.