I've asked this question at least once in a sermon in every church I've served. Why do we go to Church? I think it's an incredibly important question right now because there are, quite frankly, so many other options on a Sunday morning - far more than when I was a kid and multiples more than when my parents were children.
Consider: you might want instead to sleep in, or catch up on some work, or go shopping, or meet a friend for coffee at Starbucks, or run through some email, or read the paper (online or the old paper and ink variety), or go to your kid's soccer match or hockey game, or see what you missed this week on your DVR, or watch a film on demand or.... The list goes on and on.
Which makes me curious. Why do those of us who still go to church - which remains the one activity done by more people than any other in the U.S. - actually go?
There are a lot of reasons, I realize, perhaps as many as people in attendance. And while some of those reasons - to make a parent, spouse, or significant other happy, for instance - reflect more external motivations than internal, I think there are still lots of internal reasons folks choose to spend part of their Sunday morning at church. Some go for community, while others because it's an important part of their identity. Some go to see friends, while others hope for guidance in how they live. And so on.
But while there are lots of good reasons to go to church, the one that gets me out of bed and to the sanctuary most frequently is a sense of need, even desperation. I realize that might sound odd. But here's the thing: I've come to believe that the good news is just too hard to believe for more than about 7 days in a row.
Think about it. Each and every week, we hear the news that the God who created and still sustains this vast cosmos not only knows that you and I exist...but actually gives a damn. More than that, that God cares deeply and passionately about our ups and down, ins and outs, hopes and heartbreaks, successes and failures. And even more than that, that God cares about us enough to send Jesus that we might know and believe just how much God loves us.
Do you see what I mean? That news is so good it almost sounds too good to be true. And while it might sound great on Sunday, by Friday - and some weeks, let's face it, by Monday afternoon - it seems very hard to believe. And so we come back to church week in and week out to hear the good news of God's love, forgiveness, and grace, that we might leave encouraged to believe it - and, even harder, to live it - for one more week.
I recently came across a video of Pope Francis asking and answering a similar question. Why do sinners go to Mass, he asks. The key word in his answer is right in the middle of his question: "sinners." The people who go to church don't go because they think they're perfect but because they - we - know ourselves to be in need of Christ's forgiveness and look forward to being renewed by our time in worship. In just over two minutes, Pope Francis gets to the heart of the matter - that we go each week to hear of God's forgiving love and leave trying to live into that forgiveness, love, and a world of new possibility. It's a great message for Lent and, quite frankly, just about anytime.
Thanks to Mary Hess, on whose blog Tensegrities I found this video.