For my whole adult life, I have been a professional Christian, meaning I get paid to be at church on Sunday mornings. The whole notion of going to church as a layperson has taken on a mythic dimension in my thoughts. I often wonder to myself if I had a non-church job, would I get up early on a Sunday morning week-in and week- out to go to church, or would I choose to have family time, exercise, read, watch the news, or go golfing?
When I ask people why they go to church, I hear a lot about preaching. But we live in an age of podcasts where you can literally hear the best preachers in the world from a wide variety of traditions during your morning commute. True, these sermons won’t be contextual to your experience in a local community, but you can still hear amazing sermons that will convict, inspire, and engage your mind.
Is it to hear music that entertains us? If this were the case, there are plenty of musical performances around where we can be inspired by the creativity and presentation of the given musical ensemble. I am a little partial to this, but church is one of the few places where communal singing takes place. So, if you like singing with big groups of people, the church is one of the few places where that particular tradition lives on.
Do you go to church to sense the divine? If this were the case, there are many beautiful trails where we can hike to personally experience the beauty and mystery of God in nature. Or maybe you sense the divine by having great faith-centered conversations with people. You could easily schedule a coffee date with a good friend and accomplish this.
What is it about church that we cannot get anywhere else besides the church?
From the earliest documentation scholars have of the Christian tradition, we know that their gatherings and life together centered around the distribution of food (Lord’s Supper), the bathing of the faithful (Baptism), petitioning and approaching God through prayer, and the hearing of God’s Word; all done in the context of a community dedicated to the teaching and mission of Jesus Christ as demonstrated in a community of faith. This is why the early church met for worship, and I would suggest this is why we meet as well today! In the community of faith here at UPC, we together proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through partaking in Holy Communion. We together proclaim the vital presence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives through the waters of Baptism. We together proclaim God’s faithfulness as revealed in Scripture through the hearing of the Word, through preaching on that Word, and through sacred music we sing together. Moreover, this work is done with our brothers and sisters who have made a common decision to serve each other, the larger community of Peoria, and the world with the love of God. Not only does our participation in all of these things mystically connect us with one another, it shapes and informs the way in which we live our life. It makes us more loving, more patient, more approachable, more like the image of Christ. This is why we get up to go to church on Sunday mornings.
Author ~ Aaron Schultz Director of Worship & the Arts
Rev. Stephen W. Barch