CrossWhat does it mean ‘to go to church’?

You probably have a different answer to that question than I do. In fact if I polled you I do not think we would get the same response from everyone. I think there would be a great deal of similarities, but also some subtle differences.

In fact let’s take a poll and for this poll you are able to answer more than once, which is only fair since you don’t know the questions ahead of time.

Who comes for spiritual fulfilment?

Who comes because they have questions about life they hope will be answered.

Who comes for the friendships they have formed over time?

Who comes for the music?

Who comes to engage in the work of the Kingdom?

Who comes to worship God?

All are good and valid reasons for coming to church.

The Time Between Worship – Audio Sermon

I do have another question for you, one I would like you to think about over the course of this week. The questions is: What do you expect to happen while you are at church? And for the record, the order of service is not the expectation I am referring to.

What do you expect to happen at church? A simple question I suppose.

In our gospel reading from Mark Jesus has just left the synagogue. It is a Sabbath day and he has left the Synagogue where he has taught and healed many people. Those who were present marvelled at his authority.

Jesus like us, went to church. He joined with a community of faith, taught and worshipped God.

Much of what we do on a Sunday morning is reflected in what we find in scripture. The liturgy, which is a fancy way of saying, the prayers and other invocations the minister says on a Sunday morning often have a root in scripture. By the way liturgy can be roughly translated from the Greek to mean ‘the work of the people.’ Which is why you participate in several aspects of the worship service. We are all here together, worshipping God.

Communion is perhaps the most obvious place where the liturgy has a very direct connection to scripture. Pay attention the next time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. When I use the words: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, Haven and earth are full of your glory.” That is a paraphrase of Isaiah 6. The words “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” are taken from Psalm 118.

What we do on Sunday morning, how we worship God on a Sunday morning is modelled on how we believe Jesus worshipped God 2000 years ago. In worship we reach back to our very roots and we bring those scriptural elements forward into the world today and we make sense of them in our own context. How we worship God is very important.

Of course we can’t stay at church forever can we? I suppose we could and some do, but for most of us it is simply not feasible. Even Jesus left the synagogue, as he understood that God’s mission needed to be lived within the context of society. So Jesus left the Synagogue, with Simon and Andrew, John and James travelling with him. He left the synagogue, just as we will leave St. Andrew’s in about 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on whether or not you stay for coffee this morning.

Jesus travels to Simon and Andrew’s house. While there he heals Simon’s mother-in-law. After being healed she does a remarkable thing. She begins to serve her guests on a Sabbath day. We read a lot about Jesus breaking the understood rules of the Sabbath. Here is an individual, a woman, who without being taught by Jesus also breaks the understanding of work on the Sabbath.

Jesus heals and accepts hospitality. He breaks bread with his friends, those early disciples. Do you see a pattern. After leaving the synagogue Jesus goes and has a meal. What do we do after church, we enjoy at the minimum a light snack. You thought all the eating we did here was a Presbyterian thing, or particular to St. Andrew’s. However, here we see Jesus clearly enjoying the hospitality that is being offered to him and sharing in the fellowship he enjoys with the disciples.

I suppose it is at this point that his work begins. We are told that the whole city gathered around the door of that house and that Jesus cured many who were sick and cast out demons. Jesus made himself available to those who were hurting, those who were ill and he brought them comfort. He went out and did the work of the Kingdom.

Often we talk about the Kingdom of God. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I have never really described it. I haven’t told you it looks like a beautiful city with gleaming towers. I haven’t said it is a paradise, much like a tropical island. I will say this, what Jesus is doing healing people and bringing them comfort. That is what the Kingdom looks like. The Kingdom is real, it was alive and vital when Jesus was alive and walked with us.

The Kingdom is still real today, the kingdom is now, it happens where the will of Christ happens. So the Kingdom is in a state of yes, but not yet. Because we know that the will of Christ does happen, however we also know that the will of Christ doesn’t happen universally. Not all people in all places are working for the Kingdom. We work to bring the Kingdom to fulfilment, we do our part. Where the church is at work, there also is the Kingdom. So the Kingdom at this time is less about a physical place and more about a state of being. Being alive in Christ.

After healing the people Jesus rests and early in the morning he gets up and he goes and prays. He seeks solitude and spends time in prayer with God. Simon and the companions go looking for him and Simon says what I think is a powerful thing. “Everyone is searching for you.”

“Everyone is searching for you.”

Do you feel that this statement is true today? Do you search for Christ in your daily life?

Do you feel that the people you meet are searching for Christ? Perhaps they don’t articulate it, but people are on a journey. People are seeking understanding, they want to tap into the spiritual side of life. As a result they are will to take all sorts of risks.

This week I read in the paper about a young Canadian woman who died in Peru. She was participating in a ritual ceremony, seeking after spiritual questions. Her death is tragic and unfortunate, by all accounts a bright young woman who sought to make the world a better place. In reading about her I would say with confidence that she was doing the work of the kingdom. She may not have articulated it that way, but that is what I see.

Friends, people are seeking. They turn away from the church because we have failed to answer them in the past. Because the ‘church’ is viewed in an unfavourable light due to history and scandal. And perhaps people are right to shy away from the church as it exists in the world. However, in doing that they turn away from the Way of Christ. That’s what we were before we called ourselves the church. We were ‘Followers of the Way’, the way of Christ.

Christ taught and he healed, people sought him out for his wisdom. For his vision of what life should be like and as time passed with the recognition that he was the Messiah. That he was not a normal teacher, but the Son of God.

“Everyone is searching for you.” I think that statement is still true today and our job is to make sure that people can find him. Anything that we do which is a barrier to that gets in the way of our most important task. We need to help people find Christ and we need to offer people what Christ offered them. Which is ourselves, healing, comfort, dignity, love and grace.

Then Jesus says to Simon come let us go into the neighbouring town so we can teach and proclaim the message. Go out, beyond your comfort zone. Leave what you know and are comfortable with and reach people.

Our scripture ends telling us that Jesus and the disciples went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in synagogues. We finish where we started. From Synagogue to Synagogue, but look at what Jesus did in between.

Our week runs the same as this story. We are at church today and in a week’s time we will be back at church again. Church is important, I think we all recognize that. The life of Christ demonstrates this, the writings of the early church and the formation of our faith show us this.

Friends, what about the time in between when we gather for worship? That is the kingdom; the kingdom is on the road. The kingdom is God’s outpost in the world and we are the ones who are in the outpost doing the work.

Earlier I asked you why you came to church and we shared in some answers. Then I asked you what you expected to happen while you are here. Keep thinking about that question. However, I am going to give you one more question. Those first questions were about you, the next one is about God and it is simply this:

What do you think God expects on those days in between when we worship? Amen.

Text: Mark 1: 29-39