Summary: Preached 1985. What merits our coming to church frequently? We need to come with the expectation that God will meet us in the presence of His people. And then we will respond with prayer for the church, not mere criticism or complaint.
They tell the story about the fellow who on one Sunday morning woke up, struggled out of bed, shuffled downstairs for his breakfast, and then announced to his mother, "Mother, I’m not going. I’m just not going to church today. I don’t feel like it, they don’t care for me down there, I don’t need it, I’m not going, and you can’t make me"
To which his mother replied, “But son, you ought to go, you really ought to go to church. I’ve always taught you and led you to go to church. Please go on and dress and go to church."
But her son was very persistent; he asked for some reasons. "Just tell me why I should go, Mother. Just give me two good reasons why I should go to church."
"All right, said the mother. “I can give you two good reasons why you should go to church today. For one thing, you’re not a little boy anymore, you’re forty years old and I should not have to persuade you to do this. And for another reason, you’re the pastor."
Well, I wonder whether any of you have experienced a Sunday morning like that. Since you are not the pastor, you haven’t experienced one exactly like that, but is it possible that there have been those days on which it was a real chore to convince yourself that you did want to do this, you really did need to get down there to the corner of Piney Branch and Aspen Streets and do it all over again? Does that sound familiar? Are there times when it’s tough to get excited about being a churchman, tough to get all wrought up and enthusiastic and ready?
Or is there anybody here who is more like the folks my grandmother always used to comment about? She would talk with a degree of awe but also a little bit of suspicion about folks she would say were there "every time the church doors open." In the church where I grew up there were a few folks, mostly deacons and elderly ladies who had been teaching Sunday School ever since Moses graduated from the Burning Bush class, a few folks who were always there, always present, didn’t seem to matter what was going on or what kind of meeting it was. These folks were there every time the church doors opened. In fact most of the time they opened the church doors, and closed them too; they were the people who made things happen, they were the movers and shakers in our church, and if you wanted it done, you’d better know that. You’d better get Deacon Porter to approve, or you were dead. You’d need to get Sister Ada to smile on your project, or it wouldn’t go anywhere. My grandmother, and, I suspect, a lot of other people viewed these folks with both awe and suspicion; they respected them but they also wondered about them, the ones who were there "every time the church doors open."
Well, some are going to be here "every time the church doors open," but others of us, we ordinary mortals, sometimes struggle with our relationship to the church, don’t we? We sometimes struggle with whether it’s going to be worth it to get up and go, we sometimes wonder whether anything will be said or done that hooks up with reality. What is this business of church anyway? Is it important? Does it do anything, mean anything? Is it worth my time? And is it commanding enough, powerful enough, that anybody should be there "every time the church doors open?"
Hundreds of years ago a citizen of Israel, living somewhere out in one of the little villages dotting the countryside, received an invitation. Through the lanes and streets of his village there went a courier, a messenger, with interesting news, with an exciting proposal. The news was that there was to be a pilgrimage, that the people of the village were going to travel together, and they were going to go to Jerusalem. Together they would make provisions for the long and dusty journey. Together they would assemble their pack animals and their sacrificial doves, they would pull together their wives and their children, and up they would go – upward to Mount Zion and to the beautiful city of Jerusalem, on up the steep steps and finally they would stand on the Temple mount itself. And there they would worship, they would bring to the Lord whose presence filled that house all their devotion, all their love and their praise.
And so in the heart of that pilgrim, that villager, there welled up excitement, high expectations, an outburst of enthusiasm and of joy, and so much so that he recorded what he felt, recorded it for us, jaded and over-stimulated moderns that we are, recorded it for those of us who have forgotten the excitement of a new experience, who have long since lost the sense of novelty and of possibility that can be brought to worship. Hear him, hear this ancient Israelite villager, and imagine whether you can hear this in yourself.