Summary: This sermon looks at why we grater for worship, Bible study and fellowship each week
There’s a small-town church in upstate New York who had the same priest for over 35 years. He was loved by the church and the community. After he retired, he was replaced by a young priest just out of seminary who had a great desire to do well. After several weeks, he began to perceive that the people were upset at him. He was troubled. Eventually he called aside one of the lay leaders of the church and said, "I don’t know what it is, but I have a feeling that there’s something wrong." The man said, "Well, Father, that’s true. I hate to say it, but it’s the way you do Communion." "The way I do Communion? What do you mean?" "Well, it’s not so much what you do as what you leave out." "I don’t think I leave out anything from the Communion service." "Oh yes, you do. Our previous priest just before he administered the communion elements to the people would always go over and touch the radiator. "Touch the radiator? I never heard of that liturgical tradition." So the younger priest called his predecessor and said, "I haven’t even been here a month, and I’m in trouble." "In trouble? Why?" "Well, it’s something to do with touching the radiator. Could that be possible? Did you do that?" "Oh yes, I did. Before I administered the elements, I always touched the radiator to discharge the static electricity so I wouldn’t shock them." For over 35 years, the people of his congregation had thought that was a part of Holy Communion ritual. That’s the way it is with traditions. They get started, and people do them but somewhere along the way they lose their understanding of why.
It’s one thing to do something, but it is quite another thing to know why it matters. That’s the power of asking, ‘Why?’ In the church, we often do things because we’ve always done them but we never ask, “Why?” And sometimes, we end up doing things without ever knowing the reason. That’s the purpose of this series, “CSI: Church.” We’re going to examine what we do and why we do it. The hope is to put a fresh meaning and perspective on a lot of the things we regularly do and take for granted.
One of the first activities of the early church we see in the Book of Acts is gathering. Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” The end of chapter 2 says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” The first couple of chapters are saturated with descriptions of the communal nature of the first Jesus followers. From the very beginning, we see that the church was in the habit of gathering together but why?
Have you ever wondered why you get up early on Sunday morning rather than sleep in, all to meet with a bunch of people who believe that a 33-year-old Rabbi came back from the dead? I’ve asked that question more than once. That reminds me of the story of the guy whose alarm went off on Sunday morning and he hit the snooze button, rolled over and went back to sleep. It went off a second time and he hit the snooze button again but his wife told him to get up. She went to the kitchen to make coffee. When she came back, he was still in bed, covers over his head and asleep. She yelled at him to get up. “I don’t feel like it today.” I don’t care what you feel like, you’re going to get up and go to church. “But I’m tired. Just let me sleep.” The wife pulled the sheets off him and said, “I don’t care what you feel like or how tired you are, you’re the Pastor of the church and you’re going to get up and go to church!” Why do we gather?
First, when we gather, we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. So often when we think about someone coming to Christ, we make it an individual decision and endeavor. That understanding of salvation has led many people to say, “You know, I need Jesus, but I just don’t need the church.” Here’s the thing: salvation isn’t just about making a personal decision. It starts there, but it’s so much more. Salvation is about becoming like Jesus and participating in God’s plan of salvation for the world. The point of the church is to share with the world the news that Jesus is Lord, and he is ushering in the Kingdom of God, of which we get to be a part. That is why we gather, to be reminded that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We long for that, don’t we? We all want to be a part of something bigger, something that reaches beyond us, something that is going to make a radical difference in the world and the lives of people, something that will continue after we are gone. We all want to be a part of something that matters and is making a difference. The church matters. The world is a broken place and in need of the church. As Bill Hybels says, “The church is hope of the world.” Nothing else embodies Christ. Nothing else has the power of God through the Holy Spirit. And nothing else is meant to be God’s instrument of love and salvation for the world.