It’s Sunday morning and in our house, that means we are going to church. It’s always been that way. As newlyweds, we slept in on Saturday mornings. My earliest irritation with my father in law (may he rest in peace) was with his Saturday morning drop in visits. The man just never got the hint that newly married couples 1) like to stay in bed on their day off and 2) even if they are up, they are not interested in entertaining a third. We loved our lazy mornings. We needed those lazy mornings.
However, on Sunday we were up and out the door to church. We were already serving as teachers and for you Millennials, there was also church on Sunday night. It would have been so easy to justify staying home, but we established a habit from the start.
I grew up around priests and nuns. They were easily recognized by their religious habits, the clothing that identified them as consecrated to God. The habit is an outward reminder to all of their devotion to Christ and the church. Our faith “habits” are a regular reminder of the price that was paid for our redemption as well as our commitment to the Body of Christ, the church.
With the addition of a baby we were even more determined to be there. Our firstborn entered the world on Sunday and the following Sunday morning she was dressed up and taken to church. You read that right…I took my newborn, one week old into the house of God, aka the Temple of Germs. I’m sure we were warned, but we were determined to be back in our community.
This paragraph is a little disclaimer: I didn’t put my precious little in the church nursery and I let no one – not even her grandmother (I didn’t want to put her in the awkward position of saying no) – hold her while we were there. I politely declined and explained that we would love for them to stop by our home where they could cuddle to their heart’s content. No. One. Ever. Came. People didn’t want to hold my baby, they wanted to hold a baby. They were not nearly as excited about getting to know her as they were about giving their uterus a baby fix. Not my baby.
Six years later our second little girl was born, also on a Sunday. After a Lamaze birth and a couple of days of rest we set out to church the following Sunday, continuing in our pattern. I returned to work five weeks after she was born. When not at my job, I hung cloth diapers on the line to dry while my husband worked in a very physically demanding job six days a week. It never once occurred to us to use Sunday mornings to recover from the week or get things done for the following one.
Of course we stayed home when we were sick. There were vacations and other things that kept us away, but it was our pattern, our habit to get up, get ready and go. There was never a Saturday night conversation about whether we would be going. It was our routine. Just like we went to work and school on Monday, we showed up at church every week.
Lest you think I was a conformist, I must tell you that I was the pioneer who (I’m sure of this) was the first person to introduce the notion of not having Sunday night church. Don’t get me wrong, Sunday night church was awesome. It was more casual and relaxed; from the music to the atmosphere in the sanctuary, it felt more like family than Sunday morning. Almost without fail, we traded hosting casual after church dinners with another family. That was the best time, whether we adults played cards or just chatted while the kids gathered in the other room.
The problem with this? By the time the evening was ending, it was past bedtimes and we were already behind in our normal weeknight schedule. I’m not known for boldly introducing groundbreaking new ideas but one morning as we sat in a fast food restaurant with our pastor and another local pastor, I made a bold statement: “Sunday night church isn’t good for families. I think we should consider not doing it.”
WHOA….I might as well have said that pastors could wear jeans in the pulpit and Baptists should speak to the Episcopalians in the liquor store. Based on their reaction, I was sure that if the Baptists excommunicated heretics, I was on my way out.
Needless to say, I now know that my vision was clearly anointed since this new enlightened generation realizes that Sunday nights are best spent with family, friends and neighbors, building relationships and sharing Jesus over supper. And therein is true Sunday Night Church, my friends.
I pop out of that rabbit hole to tell you that I’m so glad we have a habit of going to church. Last week, one week after my husband’s discharge from the hospital, I guided my car into a handicapped space, pulled his walker from the back seat and we made our way to the elevator that would carry us to the room where the church meets.
It would have been easy to stay at home. He is recovering from major surgery. There are germs in such a large group of people. But the community that is the church was there, waiting for us. They greeted us with concern and care and open arms. We were with them again as we worshiped our Jesus, the one who knows our hearts and loves us anyway. The one who has brought healing and comfort in the midst of every storm. Our habit led us back to that place of imperfection and our hearts were encouraged.
The messages haven’t always been great. Sometimes things that were spoken from the pulpit made me cringe. We’ve been let down, hurt, overlooked and overworked. People have lied about us and to us. They are all flawed, these people who love God. We are all flawed. But the one who we seek is perfect. In his perfect love, we see the hope for redemption that is within every one of us. We encourage one another in that hope.
It is because of the community of Christ-believers that we have remained married for over forty-three years. The people in our community expected that of us; we know that they have counted on us to walk with them, learn from them and share with them our struggles and our victories. We owe it to them to show up, so if you’re looking for us this morning, we’ll be in the center row, about 2/3 of the way back.
“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (The Message)
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