Category Archives: 2012-02

Pastor’s Pen for February, 2012

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’  (Luke 19:5) It’s a bit shocking to realize how few of the significant events of Jesus’ ministry took place in religious sanctuaries.  Open any of the gospels at random, and you’re much more likely to find Jesus out in the country, walking through some obscure village, or hanging out in somebody’s home, rather than in some religious sanctuary.  This wasn’t because he devalued public worship, but because he knew that what was going on in people’s lives the rest of the week was as important in nurturing their relationship to God as what they did on the Sabbath.  He knew that it was their homes, their workplaces, and in their social hangouts that God’s presence was most needed . . . and most often went unrecognized!  It was in all those places where people weren’t expecting to meet God that Jesus was most concerned with making God’s presence known. Despite the example that Jesus’ ministry gives us, churches unfortunately (and probably unintentionally) have given many people the impression that Sunday worship is the primary (or only!) place that we can foster our relationship with God.  Families no longer see themselves as responsible for cultivating spiritual growth and religious devotion.  The workplace often feels like an environment which God is forbidden to enter.  Even informal social gatherings and civic service projects seem like activities in which God is not welcome to participate. But Jesus knew that our public worship life will only be vital and meaningful to the extent to which our spiritual lives are nurtured throughout the week.  We can’t expect to recognize God’s presence on Sunday if we haven’t practiced recognizing it throughout the week! I suspect that the reason that so many people have given up on regular worship attendance is NOT because of what happens in the service, but because of what DOESN’T happen throughout the week.  If God is so absent from daily activities, how can God suddenly become a V.I.P for us on the weekend? If churches today are to regain a place of significance in community life, the place to start is to cultivate awareness of God throughout the week.   ∙           Instead of always meeting in church buildings, lets let restaurants, cafes, and other public spaces become venues for religious conversations. ∙           Instead of focusing on building a robust Sunday School program for children, let’s provide periodic workshops and ongoing mentoring for parents on how to become spiritual educators for their children. ∙           Instead of pretending that the workplace is a place God doesn’t care about, let’s gather in groups to support each other in coping with some of the soul-wrenching decisions and issues we have to deal with each workday. ∙           Instead of allowing sports, travel, and recreational activities become the enemy of our religious life, let’s embrace them and tease out their untapped spiritual possibilities. ∙           Instead of just volunteering for some worthwhile cause that excites us, let’s learn to articulate how we see ourselves joining in God’s redemptive activity by participating in this project.   Weekdays will always be hectic, busy, confusing times for us, where God will not always seem close by.  We will need each other’s help to reverse this condition.  Church growth will not begin by inviting someone to attend a church service, but by inviting them to join you in some form of weekday discipleship.  They won’t join you in worship until they can see how you have come to recognize God’s presence during the week.  It won’t be your words or your moral perfection that will be the deciding factor, but the warmth and power of Jesus walking beside you.  People won’t join us on Sunday until they meet Jesus during the week.  It’s up to each of us to help them find an appropriate occasion to meet. –  Duane