I Corinthians 12:4-20, 26
“Get up, son. It’s time to go to work!”
“I don’t want to,” the young man said as he pulled a pillow over his head.
“Get up, I said. If I you don’t get up now, you’ll be late,” his mom implored.
“Can I sleep in today or at least shut my eyes for a few more minutes? It’s so nice and toasty under the covers. Do I really have to go to church?”
“Yes, son, remember that you’re preaching this morning!”
Although I may be an exception – my eyes open by 5:00 a.m. every morning – sometimes even preachers may want to sleep late on Sunday mornings!
It isn’t always easy to get to church on Sunday. We’ve been busy all week with work and chores, sports and school; and taking the kids and grandkids to school, and helping with church meetings and yard sales, and we feel like we need to take a breath. And, of course, now church going competes with soccer, ice hockey, and other extra-curricular activities.
I understand this, there are Sundays a strong cup of coffee, brunch, and the New York Times seem pretty attractive to me. But, why go to church? Can’t we just walk on the beach and in the forest, get out our binoculars and look at osprey or turn on a television preacher? Of course, these are all options for us, and if God is present in all things and every moment, we can discover every place is God’s sanctuary.
Think a moment, and I’m going to bring you in on the conversation. With all the other options, what brings you to church each Sunday? What’s happens here in this place that might not happen elsewhere that brings value and goodness to your life?
Paul speaks of the church as the body of Christ and he means it. The church is like the physical body, guided by the mind of Christ, moving in every cell, and made up of cells and organs, which are dependent on the whole to be healthy, and whose health brings well-being to the whole body: a healthy body and a healthy soul and God’s wisdom guiding every moment of our lives.
Let me share my thoughts: we go to church to be part of a caring community. I grew up in a Baptist church, where on communion Sundays the congregation sang, “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love, the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
Now, the apostle Paul knew all the imperfections of the Corinthian church, still he claimed that when one suffers, all feel pain; when one rejoices, all rejoice. Like a healthy family, church has moments of conflict, but church is the place where people take you as you are and help you become a better person. Church is like family, in this regard. It’s the place people can call you any hour of the day and someone’s going to respond. I’ve received calls at all hours, and so have some of you.
I’ve seen folks go out of their way to take someone to the doctor, help clean a house, and show up to sit by the bedside, often laden with casseroles and sweet rolls. We show up at memorial services, bring food to the reception, and tear up at the loss of friends.
The church is also the place where we can learn God’s wisdom in worship, faith sharing, play, and study. God is everywhere, but being in a community that joins heart, hands, and mind, helps us see God in the most unexpected places and enables us to find moral guidance to face ethical challenges at work, school, and daily life.
The church is a place of prayer, where we can lean on a power more loving and caring than ourselves. In our prayers, we touch each other with grace, and feel the difference in our cells and souls.
The church inspires us to generosity. It invites us to go beyond self-interest and make sacrifices of time, talent, and treasure for people we’ll never meet. Here at South Congregational, we learn the word and wisdom of God in worship and children’s, youth, and adult faith formation. We grow to love the word and wisdom of God through immersing ourselves in prayerful reflection and self-discovery. Then, we live the word and wisdom of God that takes us beyond the prison of the ego, of self-interest, of rugged individualism, to discover our unity with all of life.
In church we are told that it’s not all about “me” and my desires. It’s about “us” as a community and the world. Generosity starts here with care for the children and people of all ages, nurturing one another’s gifts and helping each other in need. We learn we have a mission here at church – each one of us – and that our mission is to do something beautiful for God by loving the world God loves and helping others experience joy, freedom, new life, and new opportunities – around the corner and as far away as Angels’ Place in India.
When we make living the word of God a priority, when we reach out to others, even as younger people, we discover we have more time – and more efficiency and energy. We are not isolated – our home is the village, the Cape, and the planet. In the constant reminder that our joys and sorrows are one, that others’ celebration is our joy and others’ pain our pain, we grow in stature.
We might want to focus solely on our desires, but here at church, we are reminded that true joy comes from letting go of our small agenda to discover God’s great vision; happiness comes from seeing others’ needs as important as our own; and discovering holiness in a hammer at Habitat, a casserole or sandwiches for persons in need; backpacks for children; and care for people we’ll never meet; planting milkweed seeds, cleaning up the beach, and welcoming a new kid at school or on the team.
We are a body and a family, and though sometimes we muddle through and make mistakes, God is in this place; the steeple joins heaven and earth and reminds us to be heavenly minded but more importantly, earthly good; the bell tolls sharing good news in the village. God is here, God is with us, God is alive, and God sends us out in the world to bring beauty and healing to this good earth.