Dad was right … at least on Sunday
Sixty years ago the nicest thing you could do for me on a Sunday morning was tell me I didn’t have to go to church. I wasn’t an atheist or anything; I just didn’t like to go to church.
A year earlier my parents had changed churches and I was having difficulty adjusting to the new church. My father, bless his heart, believed that if the church lights were on we should be there. And we usually were.
Even after I came to a personal faith I longed for a Sunday morning when I could stay home, read the Sunday paper and maybe catch something on television.
A few years later I fell in love with a nice Baptist girl who went to church every Sunday and I enjoyed going to church with her. We married and continued going to church each Sunday morning, partially to keep her parents happy.
A few years later when financial circumstances prodded us to move three hours away to Sioux City she was reluctant. She finally came to realize the need to move and said, “I’ll make the move on two conditions.”
“Name them,” I said. I needed a better paying job and was eager for the new opportunity.
“First of all,” she said, “if we move I don’t want to have to cook Sunday dinner. McDonald’s is fine but I don’t want to cook on Sundays.”
I agreed. The new job’s salary would allow us to afford fast-food Sunday dinners.
“Secondly,” she continued, “we are going to find a good church and we are going to get involved. No more Sunday-morning-Christian stuff.”
I understood what she was saying and agreed to her second term as well. Once we got to Sioux City we started church shopping but it took a year before we found a church in which we were comfortable.
It was a small but growing church with lots of young couples with lots of young children. We quickly found a home there and my wife and I both matured in our faith.
When Sunday mornings came there was no discussion. We and our children went to church. This continued over the decades.
When my wife died suddenly six years ago, her faith and mine eased some of the pain of the loss. The hospital chaplain who counseled me moments after Cindy’s passing reminded me of a truth for those who trust in Jesus: “…Do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13. NIV)
More fully appreciating the importance of faith, when I remarried my bride was a woman of strong faith and today our faith plays an important role in our relationship. When we moved to West Des Moines nearly three years ago we made a serious attempt to find a good church and we did.
Julie led children’s worship on a recent Sunday requiring that we arrive at church early. While she tended to her details I sat in my usual row near the back of the sanctuary. One-by-one as friends and acquaintances arrived we exchanged greetings and Sunday morning chatter. During the “turn-and-greet-your-neighbor” time of the service I left my seat and wandered around greeting people I knew and some I didn’t.
We have an excellent young pastor who is a gifted preacher. His sermons are relevant (I remember them on Monday) and skillfully delivered. It was a good Sunday morning.
After the service I thought back to 60 years ago when I would have given money to have been able to stay home on Sunday morning. Things have changed.
Psychologists say that going to church is good for you. The New York Times reported several years ago that “Religious attendance… boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.”
There’s much more to it, though. Dwight L. Moody wrote, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”
Author and pastor R. Kent Hughes summed it up thusly: “On the most elementary level, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian. You do not have to go home to be married either. But in both cases if you do not, you will have a very poor relationship.”
Dad was right on the Sunday morning matter. Every time the lights are on? Not so much.