Why did you rise from the dead so early in the morning? Couldn’t you have made your grand entrance around noon or later?
Are you really surprised to find half of the congregation asleep and the other half listening for an excuse to sleep in next Sunday?
It is hardly the party hour. The best parties start after the sun goes down, not when the sun comes up.
While the children may have lots of enthusiasm once they get there, getting them out of bed and into their party clothes is exhausting. Not to mention how our bodies take a little longer to warm up as we get older.
So you’re probably not surprised that attendance goes down when the pastor is out-of-town. After all, who are we going to see ?
I’m just suggesting that when planning your return you take a later flight and make sure our pastor is in town. Just a really good suggestion.
All about me,
My Church Lady Notes
Reformation Sunday the pastor, my hubby, was away on a men’s retreat. I was teaching a parenting class during Sunday school and scheduled pre-marital counseling after church, so I never gave a thought to “alternate” plans.
I knew I was going to be busy so I spent more time deciding which shoes looked good, would be comfortable and gave me a leadership edge than about my husband not being in the pulpit.
I was looking forward to seeing and hearing the visiting pastor. I knew we were in for a treat. The last time I heard her preach I felt like she was talking directly to me and I liked how she was able to transform the liturgy into a conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very blessed to be married to a spirit-filled pastor. I love hearing his sermons. I LOVE worshiping with him, especially as his assistant. And…
It was Reformation Sunday. As a Lutheran convert, I appreciate the annual confirmation that I’m saved by grace and other biblical truths. And while I’m inspired by the ways the Holy Spirit stirs up my husband, I am also moved by how our Lord shakes His word out in others. Sometimes it takes another voice to nurture the message into action.
Often, just by inviting someone else to join a group turns a gathering into a party we are glad we didn’t miss. And this Sunday was no exception.
However, the day before should have been a warning that not everyone shared my enthusiasm. While hanging out with a few church friends, one reminded the other that the pastor wouldn’t be there.
I, being rarely able to hide my opinions gave a sharp disapproving look, to which my friend tried a weak save by saying we should still go, she was just making sure no one was surprised that he wasn’t there. And in my low cat caught the canary, aren’t I funny but I’m not, voice I said thank you but I knew he wouldn’t be there. Ha ha.
I know church-cation codes. I let her squirm before releasing her from my old Catholic guilt and allowed my Lutheran reformation wash over us by saying, “We’re Lutheran, we don’t have to go to church. We’re saved by grace. We get to go to church.”
There was a time I would have shouted “BS” to the last sentence. Clearly it negates the others. What is the difference between we ‘get’ to or ‘have’ to, if we end up in the same place in the end? The answer is Reformation which I’ll get to in a minute because I wasn’t being Lutheran at the moment, just a churchy preacher’s wife. I’m sure I would have used stronger words before my conversion.
On Sunday was a steady stream of “is the pastor here”, “the pastor’s not here”, “where is the pastor”, “do we have to …”
I confirmed for each confirmation student that they have class, than I repeat myself for their parents, I confirm for my students that I am here to teach even though my hubby is not and finally I teach my class before heading to church.
In church more people than usual came up to me before service began. It was amusing to see so many usually introverted people get up from their pews and head straight to me before returning to their seats. Each felt the need to actually tell me they were there when obviously I’m talking to them, so I know they are in church. I said I wasn’t taking attendance. A few apologized for coming saying they didn’t know the pastor wouldn’t be there and I joked that I was just as surprised as they were.
And another told me attendance was light because the pastor was out-of-town. This wasn’t the first time I attended church without the preacher and it wasn’t the first time I’d been told members take a vacation when the pastor was gone or when there was an important football game. I said the pastor would be disappointed attendance was down but probably would also be upset if he missed the best attended Sunday.
It seemed like most were surprised I came to church without the pastor because I’m usually worshiping at another church either with or without the preacher. And even the pre-marital couple seemed surprised we were meeting when the pastor was out-of-town.
When I got home I told my daughter I missed her at church while I proceeded up the steps to change my clothes. My daughter reminded me that her father wasn’t there.
I stopped, walked backwards down the hall, and looked her in the eye before stating very slowly, “We do not go to church to worship your father!” (Or any pastor, praise team etc…)
Obviously I was much harder on my daughter than anyone else. I was also a hypocrite.
I haven’t attended church every Sunday of my life. When I was young, my family usually left church right after communion and never went to church on vacation. Occasionally we slept in on Sundays. I don’t know if it was because the priest was out-of-town but I appreciated the extra sleep. And I rarely went to church in college.
And I don’t know when that changed. After I became Lutheran I attended church on a regular basis but still didn’t worship while on vacation. I don’t recall if it was a Lutheran woman bible study, a sermon, hubby going to seminary, trying different services at Synod events or a combination. But I know that when I started attending church while on vacation my worship was less of a chore and more of a celebration.
At some point several reformation points merged together, took root and began to grow. I’m saved by grace, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9). I don’t have to go to church.
I’m called to worship with my brothers and sisters because it is good for us (Hebrews 10:24-25). Church is a support group for sinners. I’m a sinner. I fall short (Romans 3:23). I need a savior who has already come and paid the penalty for my sins. It is a delicate balance of Good Friday and Easter. Worship is a celebration of that freedom. Every Sunday we celebrate with wine and feast an independence day from sin and death. We celebrate and look forward to reuniting with our departed saints.
So why miss the party?
Church isn’t any different than any other party. Good parties have good food, good music and fun people. Exciting people do not attend out of obligation.
The fun leaves the party when the “I don’t want to be here but the host will be mad at me if I didn’t come” or the “I didn’t want to come but it would be boring without me or my 2 layer dip” sucks the life out of the group.
Imagine if on Sunday everyone was asked, “Are you ready to party?” And this includes traditional service. Everyone who says yes is offered a bright party shirt, everyone who says they need to be nurtured is given a blue shirt, everyone who says they are here out of obligation is given a gray shirt and anyone who arrives claiming to be the guest of honor is sent to a box seat in the balcony with a tiara and boa. (Sorry Bishop if you get sent to the balcony.)What does your congregation look like?
We all have low energy days that we go to church out of obligation. If we don’t go who will greet people, pass out bulletins, seat people, read the lesson, serve communion, teach Sunday school, preach…
We also have days when it takes every ounce of energy to drag ourselves to church. We are hurt, grieving and desperately need support.
Prayerfully we all have Spirit filled days when we are bursting at the seams to share our joy with Christ. We know we are sinners. We know we have been freed from our sins. We are thankful for our church family and look forward to seeing them. We are eager to share the love poured out upon us. We know it is a party and we can’t wait to get there. We sing to church, dance while we are there and dance our way into the community to share the love of Christ. We want to invite our friends, family and the man on the corner to the best party ever.
At almost every party there are some who think they are the life and focus of the party. They think everyone came to see them and believe it wouldn’t be a party without them. When they arrive they state the service can begin and look for their place of honor. But if they’re not Jesus, God or the Holy Spirit they need an adjustment.
This doesn’t mean we don’t offer our best and first fruits at the alter. We all should arrive with party hats and a grateful heart for our gifts and special talents. Our focus, the guest of honor – God.
Long ago I realized that worship days I couldn’t put on my party shirt or a blue shirt for comfort are days I need to celebrate anonymously somewhere else. I need a retreat; a boost.
It is also important to give before I go so the party is still there when I get back.
Imagine if instead of ministry fairs, everyone wore their shirts to church. Brightly colored spirit filled members praying with and nurturing our blue shirted friends, stepping up to replace burnt out Sunday school teachers, ushers and council members. Imagine if your pastor arrives in a gray shirt and someone in a bright shirt steps up to lead worship.
Imagine a brightly colored congregation ready to party.
To those who missed service, I hope you got some rest. You missed agreat sermon and awesome praise music – after all it was Reformation Sunday.
To everyone who worshiped elsewhere, please share.