I love Sundays. Do you?
I mean, as far back as I can remember...I've loved them. Oh, maybe I didn't love them when I was a teenager...but I actually think I did!
I love going to church...seeing all the people...singing the songs. I love the feeling of community I get from worshiping together with other believers.
Even when our kids were little, and it was a struggle to get up, get dressed, find shoes, eat breakfast...and get out the door in time for Sunday School...we still did it. It was never a question of whether or not we were going. WE WERE GOING.
I hope my kids will always have that same feeling.
I'm not trying to be preachy/judgy or legalistic...there were certainly times when we didn't go to church. Like, if we were on vacation...or if we'd been up late with a sick kid or something (meaning, instead of one of us going and the other staying home with the child, we'd both just stay home). Back in the day, there were the occasional swim meets/ball tournaments on a Sunday, and we would have to miss church. But for the most part, we made it to church on Sundays...our church, the grandparent's church, "beach" church on vacation.
Back when I was growing up...and also when our kids were little...we had TRAINING UNION (discipleship training) on Sunday nights...and THEN we had another church service.
The night services were always our favorites. It was homey. Or, as Joshua would say, "more homier."
After night church, we'd go out to dinner with our friends...and everyone would bring their kids. We'd eat and talk and watch kids and make more trips to the bathrooms than you can imagine. We tried to keep the kids away from the self-serve soft-drinks, and out of the crackers on the salad bar. It usually meant hyped-up kids and a rushed nighttime schedule...and a little later-than-normal bedtime by the time we finally got home...but it was such a nice way to start the new week.
You know, most people have to be at work early, so it's not that big of a deal to wake up in time for church. And, hey...I realize not every person is a morning person. Our family...even when our kids were very young...got up early. We never had to wake them up...EVER. So, even if we weren't church-going people, we'd probably have to go SOMEWHERE...because our kids were up and ready to party! Ha!
But I completely understand people feeling like they just want one day to sleep in and relax.
I totally get that.
Our church just started having small groups and services that are the same as the morning ones...on Sunday nights. I hope it's helpful for the ones who can't come in the mornings, for whatever reason.
When I was big pregnant with Joshua...Jim and I got up one morning at 2 a.m. We met up with our friends, David and Jennifer, who were also expecting their first child. We drove to some mountain somewhere, and laid out in the back of the vehicles...and on the ground...and looked up at the sky. All to see Halley's comet.
After we saw it, we went to a Waffle House for breakfast. And then...we went home and got ready...and we went to church. Because it was a Sunday.
We aren't better than anyone...it's just what we did...and we didn't even think about staying home.
Every summer, Joshua goes to a camp for kids with special needs. The camp is located in Missouri. On pick-up day, we typically leave our house at 3 a.m., because the gates open at 7:30...and it's a 4 1/2 hour drive. Most people...most RATIONAL people...they spend the night in a hotel the night before, so they don't have the long, early morning drive. Not us. No way. No how.
"We are settlers. Now go churn us some butter, boy...and then make your own clothes."
We get up before dawn, drive all the way up there...stay an hour for the closing ceremonies...and then drive all the way home. 4 1/2 hours each way. One of us might get a short nap in the car...or we might try to rest after we get home...but we keep on going for the rest of the day. Don't do as we do. We are crazy.
We've also gotten up at the crack of dawn to go to a ballgame.
Why is it we feel we can't possibly be inconvenienced on Sundays?
Before our church services start, our choir meets in the practice room. We go over the special music one more time, and pray for the service. Then, we file out of that room, and into the sanctuary.
I guess it's because I have 3 boys...I don't know...but when we make the turn to go up the steps...and walk through the little hallway that will lead us to the stage...I kind of feel like we are walking into the "tunnel" before the big game.
Did your kid's school have a tunnel, or some sort of blow-up thing, that the football players ran through before the start of the game?
Sometimes I will jump up and hit the door post as we walk through. Now, no one in the congregation can see me...don't worry. And my choir peeps already think I'm crazy...but I'm just so excited to be there. So excited to worship. I love God and I love church, and I want everyone to be excited to worship and sing and learn.
When our two younger boys played soccer (when they were little), before they went out onto the field, the parents would stand in two rows facing each other. We would reach across to the person in front of us, and use our arms to make a little "tent..." our own little tunnel for the kids to run through...pumping them up and cheering them on before they took the field.
I'm not suggesting we do that in our churches...but what if we did? What if, as our church members came in the door, we lined up to greet and cheer them...and gave them high 5's? What if we said, "thank you for coming!" And, "so good to see you!" And, "are you ready to hear a word from the Lord today?"
This is what I envision when I read Hebrews 12 about the "cloud of witnesses." I don't know if it means the faithful men and women of old, or the martyrs, or the angels...or even the other live people who are watching us go through difficulties and trials...but a crowd is there...cheering us on as we go through life.
What if we were all so excited to be at church...so excited about worshiping the Lord together...that we RAN through a blow-up tunnel just to get inside?
There are probably some churches out there that do some really crazy things. And probably, if I was in a church like that one I described above, I would wonder what those people were drinking. Because there is a real danger in getting people hyped up for the sake of emotion; of comparing emotional highs with the moving of the Spirit; of putting the focus on "feeling good," and leaving the service "happy," instead of being broken by the reality of our sin, and on our faces before a holy God.
Church is not always a happy place. If you've been a Christian long enough, you've seen some sadness there. Maybe you've heard some harsh words there. Maybe you haven't been included there. Maybe, in the one place we should all feel welcome, you felt even more alone.
It's not supposed to be that way.
Let's try to do better, you and me.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1