I hear a lot of complaining – and real concerns – about how things aren’t the way they used to be. In some ways, this is sad, but in most ways, I see it as a very good thing. For example, women can vote -that is a great thing. Marriage is more about people’s rights than religious values – I see that as a great thing too. In fact, almost all of the changes that have taken place in the last 40 years are, in my opinion, good things.
“But what about competition on Sunday mornings (church-wise) or the fact that Good Friday is no longer an unofficial holiday?” you might ask (ask the Jewish and Muslim communities about Friday night football). I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I would love to have a monopoly on Sunday mornings – it would make my life a lot easier. On the other hand – with the exception of shut-ins and people who are forced to work – I know that the people in church on a Sunday morning are there because they want to be (some children might take exception with that!). Practicing one’s faith is ultimately a choice, and when we choose to make that more important than anything else, we are showing where our heart is.
America was never very committed (religiously speaking) to organized religion. The mid-20th century was an anomaly – one source I read found that church attendance in the Colonies in the mid-1700’s was only 17%, and we are heading down to that number in this century. Sure – Spiritual But Not Religious – I can find God in nature more than in church – I follow my own spiritual path (Yadda Yadda Yadda). If you claim to be a Christian – and if you don’t, please don’t get your shorts in a bunch, because I’m not talking about you – then part – part of that claim is founded in being part of a faith community. If you prefer going to soccer games, then maybe you are a Soccerterian. If you prefer hiking, maybe you are a Druid. If you are a follower of Jesus, that means you participate in some way in a Christian community. You worship, you pray, you are generous with your time and money, you further the mission of Jesus by helping people in need.
Is this being judgmental? Maybe. I’m not saying anything about anyone’s eternal destination. I know that many who go through the motions of faithfulness may not make it to heaven. Jesus said as much in Matthew 25. What I am saying is that the final destination of one’s soul, while an important concern, is not the only concern we should have. If we aren’t making the world a better place – both as an individual and as a faith community – then we aren’t being faithful. So (again – if you are a shut-in or forced to work, please ignore this part), why don’t you get up, come for breakfast (it is a special breakfast at 9am, and it is always great) on Easter, and stay for worship (10:30 only – 8am will be back next week). You might find that we (at Calvary) aren’t the way we used to be – and you might like that. Peace!
The Rev. Dr. Steve Ohnsman, PhD is pastor of Calvary UCC in Reading, PA