Why go to church?

Published 6:07 pm Friday, January 6, 2012


St. John’s Episcopal Church

Happy New Year! And happy New Year’s resolutions! Broken all of them yet? Yeah — so have I. It is hard to do something new, isn’t it? Especially something like attending church services more often — even (gasp!) every Sunday. Why should you go to that trouble?

Email newsletter signup

Asking me, of course, is somewhat like asking a Coca-Cola salesman why you should drink Coke. The party line is: it’s good! You’ll like it! That may be true, but you want something more logical, right? Okay — here are four reasons to try out.

Going to church acknowledges that you are not the end all and be all in the universe. There is something around which the planets turn, besides your own will and desires. There is something knowable but incomprehensible that requires you to look at yourself without pity or overweening pride. You can check your hubris at the door and see others as worthy of your attention and time.

Is everyone at church perfect? Gracious, no. Jerks and hypocrites appear there, just as they do in your office or neighborhood or favorite bar, so why draw the line at church? The standard for measurement in church, however, is God in Christ Jesus — that knowable but beyond simple understanding One — not each other. I have often been amazed at how much better others seem when I compare myself to God and realize how far short I come of being what I should or could be.

Second, in church you get a glimpse of the needs of others around you. Most movements for social justice or the common good have come out of churches and religious groups, not political parties or social activities. In church you actually talk about the poor and needy — in general and in specific — and money that you give will be used to solve some of the world’s problems. In and through church, you can contribute to the good of this community and of the world. Your vocabulary stretches to include the hungry family down the street, as well as around the world. You can learn the joy of giving — and find that a true smile from the heart is the best anti-aging exercise you will find anywhere.

Third, you can take your brain with you and use it. God welcomes questions and the questioner. There is nothing here that God does not know about — after all, God created everything that is and inspires every good thing that we do. St. Mattress may offer sleep, but God offers rest — real rest. You can bring your questions and doubts and struggles and pains and God will share the load. You can find and share joy, or help bear the burdens of others. You can sing, dance, weep, praise and learn with others who share your ideals and longings for “something more,” because God is always our “more.”

Of course, God is on the golf course or at the lake or on the river bank. But so are distractions. We humans have a hard time focusing on the skills required for recreation at the same time as praising and learning from God. God gives us 168 hours every week and only asks for one back on Sundays. That is a small amount of time to focus on the ground of our being.

But , hey — I am only the sales person. I tried it and I liked it. Maybe you will too.