I was thinking today about how Sunday mornings have changed throughout my life, how as a child I loved to walk to our church a few blocks away for Sunday School, then stay for church. I loved the stories, the music, and the kind people who made coming to church fun.
As a teen-ager I sang in our church choir, and loved the music we sang. Then as a young adult I turned away from God for awhile, but when finally I came back to church I discovered how much I'd missed Him. Those were the Sunday mornings of diapers and disasters -- you know the kind: the spilled milk, the lost socks, the tangled hair and tears, the hurrying out the door while trying not to yell and completely undermine the purpose of going to worship.
That's when I learned the real value of a Saturday night well spent: baths, laying out clothes for Sunday morning, getting something ready for breakfast ahead of time. Usually BH made pancakes for our appreciative gang of kids while I helped the littlest ones eat and dress. We even occasionally made it out the door on time!
A local radio station, not usually our favorite, (the home of easy-listening music) had a Sunday morning program called Sounds of Faith, a nice mix of traditional hymns, contemporary Christian music, and gospel quartets. The host made small talk throughout the two hours. That program encouraged me while I was working, and helped me get ready for worship!
As our kids got older (and wanted to sleep later!) we began attending a contemporary service later in the morning. We weren't as rushed, and the radio station had pulled the plug on Sounds of Faith, but our CD collection filled that gap. Sitting in the service with our sometimes-surly teens and pre-teens was a lesson in focusing, and hoping that somehow, they would “get it.”
I never minded going to church, and during most of these seasons it's been the thing that gets me through the week. Sometimes a sermon or a song or an encounter makes me squirm; I've had a lot of changing and growing up into Christ to do, and I have a feeling the job isn't finished! but I was -- am -- hungry for the Word, for the fellowship, for the opportunity to worship. I've come to realize that those things are more dependent on my attitude than they are on whatever is happening in the service -- if I come ready to receive, I always find God there, ready to give!
We didn't offer our kids a choice. They were coming with us to church, period. As they got older we explained that we considered this part of their training, and part of our responsibility as their parents. What we did give them was an out when they graduated from high school. At that point, we told them, they would have to make a decision about their own faith. We'd be glad -- thrilled, even -- if they continued to come with us as a freely made choice, but we wouldn't press them if they decided not to come along.
When BH accepted a pastoral call, we lost the pleasure of sitting together in church. We only had one child still at home with us full-time. That child came to church with me -- not always too happily -- but the day came when he graduated high school and left home for sailing ships, service, and adventure. For the first time since I was a young girl, I sat in church alone, but God brought a most precious gift: one of our daughters and her family moved, and began coming to church with us.
As time has gone by, all our kids live out a measure of faith. They've seen the worst of church life -- the bickering, the pettiness, and the faithlessness that sometimes afflict God's people; but they've also seen the best of it: the times when we live out and live in God's presence among us in Christ. They've experienced love, compassion, and caring; they've seen tremendous examples of spiritual maturity and strength. They sometimes struggle with faith, they sometimes question it, they try to live it out honestly, and wrestle with all that that means. I am confident that whatever they need, God has, and is, and will supply.
Most Sunday mornings now are more leisurely, more quiet. I sit expectantly in church, grateful for the privilege of being there. I look around, amazed at God's work, His willingness to meet us as we are. I'm touched by the music, by the Word, by the preaching. I think about sitting in church with my parents, my grandparents, my brothers and sisters, my husband and our family, friends I've come to love.
The time will come when some Sunday morning will be the last Sunday morning I go to worship. Perhaps I'll be aware of it; more likely I won't. Death can come suddenly, and things we think might go on forever just stop. Or infirmity might keep me home, or confined to a hospital or nursing home where I'll be dependent on whatever church group is kind enough to bring a service to us.
But what a rich gift it is right now, to be able to go to church, to worship freely and openly, to hear the Word preached, to sing together in worship, to love and be loved. What a privilege to be nourished, encouraged, and sent out into the everyday world to live out the faith we've just celebrated -- what a rich gift it is to be part of God's family in faith.