Every Sunday can be Back to Church Sunday
I love our church – crazy mix of real people with flaws and amazingness all sprinkled with the crazy compassionate love of God. Good times.
Can’t really begin to explain why other than it had a real feel of compassionate acceptance of every individual coming just as they are in eager anticipation to learn and receive from God.
Just what church should be.
So why do I mention this now? Well –
In the first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah, having first repaired the doors of The Temple of God, threw them open to the public. 2 Chronicles 29:3
This made me think about Back to Church Sunday, which takes place in September and is a national campaign to get people back to church. Because people drift away or deliberately stop going to church for all sorts of reasons……they fall out with someone there; they get bored of the same old same old; they get a better offer; they discover the joy of lazy Sunday mornings; they have to work; their son joins a football team; their teenagers resist going; it just doesn’t do it for them any more…..and many other reasons. Your’s may not be there.
So Back to Church is a focal point; a boost for us to invite people back and an easy way back in for those looking for one. It’s a way of turning things around and making a fresh start.
Just like Hezekiah intended –
I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel and turn history around so that God will no longer be angry with us. 2 Chronicles 29:10
Not that I’m saying that God is angry if we don’t go to church. I’m pretty sure He isn’t. It’s not usually something God gives us a hard time about. Other people are great at that – ‘Oooh, haven’t seen you in church lately……..’ – as if we are meant to feel bad and come up with all sorts of reasons, excuses and promises to return….soon. God is big enough to accept that church doesn’t just happen on a Sunday morning; it happens on a run on a Sunday evening and over coffee on a Wednesday afternoon and beside a hospital bed and around the dinner table and even during a Facebook chat…….
You can be a Christian and never go to church. But why would you want to be if church really was all that it was meant to be? Why would you not want to go somewhere that could inspire you and encourage you in your faith? Why would you not want to meet with other people and share your faith journey and listen to theirs? Why would you not want to sing and pray and read the Bible with other Christians? Why would you not want to come away feeling challenged and supported and accepted and loved, ready to face another week?
Because church unfortunately isn’t always like that, that’s why.
What we find there has to be something worth coming back for. What we experience there has to be worth stepping through the doors for. I’m not talking about putting on a great show, a perfect performance. Yesterday morning was not that (no offence!). I’m talking about tangible compassion, love in action, authentic faith, major struggles and minor victories……
Every Sunday can be Back to Church Sunday. Every Sunday can offer that opportunity. And anyone wanting to come back needs to know there’ll be a warm welcome with no awkward interrogation. We have to make it easy for people to come back. We don’t have to wait for a special event to invite people. We can keep inviting people. Every week. Any week. Naturally – ‘I’m going…come if you want…’
Hezekiah invites everyone back to the temple – although I wouldn’t suggest this level of detail – or threat!
The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitations from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah. The invitation read: “O Israelites! Come back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria. Don’t repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on God, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin—you can see the ruins all around you. Don’t be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp God’s outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve God, your God. You’ll no longer be in danger of his hot anger. If you come back to God, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home. Your God is gracious and kind and won’t snub you—come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms. 2 Chronicles 30:6-9
He’s waiting. He knows what to do.
Your God is gracious and kind and won’t snub you—come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms.
Just like the father in the story of the prodigal son.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. Luke 15:20-24
It’s good to celebrate new faces and old faces; familiar faces and unfamiliar faces……it’s good to celebrate everyone being there together to worship God. I do. I watch everyone coming back from Communion and thank God for each one of them. I marvel at the diverse range of ages, from the very young to the very old. We are so fortunate. We take it for granted what we have, but we shouldn’t.
The whole congregation of Judah, the priests and Levites, the congregation that came in from Israel, and the resident aliens from both Israel and Judah, were all in on the joyous celebration. Jerusalem was bursting with joy—nothing like this had taken place in Jerusalem since Solomon son of David king of Israel had built and dedicated The Temple. 2 Chronicles 30:25-26
Come on and celebrate!
One final point –
After the Passover celebration, they all took off for the cities of Judah and smashed the phallic stone monuments, chopped down the sacred Asherah groves, and demolished the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines and local god shops. They didn’t stop until they had been all through Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Then they all went back home and resumed their everyday lives. 2 Chronicles 31:1
They all went back home and resumed their everyday lives. Just as we do. But they were changed. Meeting together and worshipping God had changed them. It had inspired them to get rid of all that was holding them back in their journey with the one true God. We probably don’t have phallic stone monuments and Asherah groves and sex and religion shrines and local god shops. But we do all have things that hold us back in our walk with God.
We are always changed by an encounter with the living loving God of the universe.
Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work for your praise and glory. Amen