What in the World is Sunday Morning for?

What in the World is Sunday Morning for?

I recently posted something as a Facebook status that received some feedback that I thought was worthy of some reflection.  I posted, “If you haven’t been out to worship anywhere in a while, maybe today is a good day to reconnect with God and some other people who are struggling and wounded like you and trying to figure it all out. Maybe today.” The response I got was from someone (who I love and respect immensely) who grew up going to “church”, and who is actually a PK (preacher’s kid). She lives far away, unfortunately.  The response was, “I have a thought about this post. I am connected to God even if I do not go to a physical church building because of Immanuel. I may need to reconnect others, but I am never disconnected from God (by grace).

What made this interesting to me is that what “worship” means to us in our context is no longer something we can take for granted across a wide spectrum of churches or denominations.  There is a dissonance now that speaks to the need for real substantive change in thinking about what the words “worship” and “church” mean.  For us, worship is a lifestyle…not just a Sunday thing.  We take seriously Paul’s words when he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) Once worship becomes a whole-life thing, what happens on Sunday becomes something other than what it was in the church that I grew up in, and in the churches that I suspect many others grew up in or attend, as well.  We now have to be careful to be clear in our invitation in a way that we may not have had to before.

For us, Sunday morning worship is the assembly of people who are engaged in the mission throughout the week. Everyone here is actively engaged in a mission outside of our walls.  No joke. Everyone is both subject and object of the mission.  Some labor together, side by side.  But we have so many different missional engagements, that many of us labor for the Kingdom and don’t see all the other people who are engaged in the mission with them in different places and different missions.  So we come together to connect with God, yes, AND we come together to connect with one another.  It is the body coming together to celebrate the mission.  We have something now to celebrate.  So we celebrate HUGE! And we come together to be encouraged by one another.  We come together to have our wounds validated and prayed for by our brothers and sisters.  And we come to be held accountable by our brothers and sisters (that’s a subject for another post another time).

We also come together because we deeply love each other and really enjoy one another’s company, and we know we can’t do that every day because reaching the lost, and the vulnerable, and the hurting is what we are here for and where our time and resources go. We aren’t here to hang out solely with other Christ-followers, but hanging out once a week or so with people who are on the journey feeds and heals us.   And we come together to see again how many ways that we all connected.  It is a gathering of people who value authenticity and integrity and compassion that is unique to it.  There is something that happens on Sunday morning in this assembly of souls that just doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else I go, and I go a lot of places every week.  We live life together, but Sunday is unique here. We gather in mission, but our focus there is on the mission.  It can be hectic, even dangerous.  Sunday we can totally focus on God and one another.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I think that anyone who participates in this journey with us, would tell you that it is unique… and…helpful, too.  There are no “attendance police” here, and we don’t consider the number of people “in the pews” important.  There are some things we do count, but that isn’t one of them.

Sunday morning here has very few rituals. We don’t have a list of magical practices that we always do as if to ward off evil.  If rituals are what we repeatedly do because we believe those practices are pleasing to God, then the ritual that matters is compassion lived out in our lives and mission every day.  We don’t believe in “going to church”.  We believe in “being the church”.  The “church” that I grew up in had a lot of people who filled the pews who somehow believed that going to church would keep them from going to hell.  (Our pews are mostly filled with people who have already been to hell and are trying to heal from the experience of it; so that thinking just doesn’t make sense to them.)  People who loved them a lot and did the best they knew how probably taught them that. The institution of “church” fostered that belief.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that there was some grand conspiracy among a cabal of church officials who did that to further a self-serving agenda.  I think that what God was calling us to do for a while was to create a Kingdom environment within the walls and bring people into it.  I just think that God is calling us to do something else now.  Now we are called to go out into the world and develop Kingdom space everywhere we go – out there.  Since what we’re being called to do is different, what happens in here on Sunday morning is different as a result.

Something is wrong with the church if the theology that is espoused in it is that if you don’t attend, you aren’t connected to God.  If that is going on in your place of worship, I invite you to call upon all of the authority of the Gospel (in heaven and on earth) to change it. If your church is all about kooky and esoteric ritual, then I invite you speak out for change.  Rituals also tell the world about the God we worship.  If all we do is kooky rituals that have no relevance to a suffering world, then we have an obligation to speak up for change.  I absolutely affirm that we are ALWAYS connected to God by grace.  I mean, if we were stranded in the desert alone, would that mean that we were separated from God because we couldn’t go to church or participate in the magical practices of the institution and its accredited officials?  What kind of poisonous theology is that?  That’s insanity (and probably blasphemy).  God is with us in all things and in all places.  And God is in charge in all things and all places.  That being said, I also have come to see and believe that when the Body of Christ actually is what it was called to be, then the “assembly” has a purpose.  I think that Paul was right when he said, “Do not neglect the assembly”.  So with these thoughts in mind, I again say, “If you haven’t been out to worship anywhere in a while, maybe today is a good day to reconnect with God and some other people who are struggling and wounded like you and trying to figure it all out. Maybe today.”

 

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2 Comments »

  1. Leon Said:

    Well Max this is an interesting thing you bring up as I think you know that church used to be the meeting place for everyone in the town or city they lived years ago, it was the place they worshiped & also got to meet up with everyone they only got to see once a week as everyone lived further away & there were no phones or the ways of communicating there is now days. We are very spoiled now days, I myself feel that it is being part of the community & a way to stay in touch with people that you don’t see all week long. A great way to feel the spirit of God in another way with like minded people although he does live through us all week long it is nice to get the recharge so to speak.

    • You said it better than I could, Leon. You live this every day, not just Sunday. Every Saturday, you’re down at the pantry giving yourself away and finding God very much with you and at work. But, still there is something about Sunday that is unique and. as you say here so perfectly, that recharges you. Thanks for putting it out there.


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