Summary: iVow is a stewardship series using the United Methodist Church membership vows saying, "I will uphold this congregation with my prayers, presences, gifts, service and witness." The sermon is on presence.
I have shared with you before some of the television viewing habits of the Broyles household. I think I may have even shared with you that one of the current, regularly viewed shows these days is The Big Bang Theory. That may surprise some of you. And, I will say, there are absolutely things I don’t like about the show, but I can also say that about many of the shows currently on television. That being said, I find Big Bang both entertaining and funny, something I can’t say I find in many of the comedy shows on television today.
The show is about a group of three physicists, Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj and their engineer friend Howard. Penny, Amy and Bernadette, their love interests are also central characters to the show. Sheldon and Leonard are roommates. To say Sheldon is a bit of an eccentric would be a major understatement. Sheldon says he doesn’t like people, but he also isn’t afraid to use them if it pleases him. At one point in the series he and Leonard are having a conversation about having company over. Sheldon didn’t want any company because he doesn’t like being around people. He said, “Frankly Leonard, if I could afford the rent, I would ask you to leave.”
On the season finale a couple of years ago, Howard and Bernadette got married. The other five central characters each had speaking parts in the ceremony. When it was his turn Sheldon said, “Howard, Bernadette, the need to find another human being to share one’s life with has always puzzled me. Maybe it’s because I’m so interesting all by myself. With that being said, ma you find as much happiness with each other as I find on my own.”
Being the quintessential extravert, I have a hard time understanding that. I love people. I love being around people. I enjoy conversations. That doesn’t mean I can’t function when I am by myself, but generally I want to be around other people. It is where I get my energy. Being by myself can be draining. I want to have people around me far more than I want to be alone.
For the most part, I believe I am in the right profession. There are times I have to be by myself. Writing sermons is a great deal easier when I can do so without having a lot of people around. But, I also enjoy visiting with people in the office or many of the settings I find myself in during the course of a week.
This morning we are continuing our series we began last week. The title of the series is iVow, sort of a play on all the “i” gadgets and technology in our world today. But, it is also because we are looking at the things we vowed when we became members of the United Methodist Church in general and this congregation in particular. We are looking at our promises, what I vowed to this congregation.
When people join the United Methodist Church, we promise to uphold the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Last week we began with prayer. Today we continue by talking about presence. Next Sunday we will move on to service, followed by witness, and then we will conclude the series with gifts.
What does it mean to support our congregation with our presence? There is an obvious answer. And, on the commitment cards for this week, the obvious answer is central to this particular commitment. When we think of presence, the obvious answer is, we commit to support our congregation by being present here in worship. It is the most important aspect of our presence.
Worship is the most important thing this or any congregation, of any denomination should do. It is the only thing the church does that cannot and is not replicated by some other part of society. Worship is more than important. Our worship marks who we are as people of faith. It is central. Quite simply, it is what makes a church, a church.
We study in other places. We can serve the community, the world, and even God in other places. We will discuss that in greater detail next week. Our presence in both, does help us to honor our vow of presence, however, it is far from central. Corporate worship, of everything we can do, that one thing gives the church meaning and purpose. It makes us who we are.
Our society, if opinion polls are to be believed, believes overwhelmingly in God. As a people, we claim to be Christians, though people who identify themselves as “none of the above” are rapidly gaining ground. Still, belief, faith, as measurable statistics say we have never been more Christian that we are now. Yet church attendance across the country, in far more congregations than not, yet church attendance is decreasing, not increasing. That does not hold true across every congregation. There are those who are increasing, but there are also many, many more that are decreasing, particularly among mainline congregations such as our own United Methodist Church. We are far from honoring our membership vow of presence in its most obvious way.