Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why Show Up

With a few days of warmer weather under our belts we arrived this morning bathed in the glow of sunny skies. Inside our little country church there was additional sunshine as today's worship service was entirely conducted by the women leadership of our church. It was a very special time.

Paula Saxin welcomed us and we began with a few announcements, taking care of the business before commencing with worship.

1. There is a rummage sale coming soon which will be a fund raiser for ministry and outreach purposes.
2. Secret Friend sign-up sheets are in the narthex. All women are invited to participate.
3. The Valentine Sweetheart Banquet is next Saturday night. Only $7 per person for a great meal, fellowship and musical entertainment by Dave Peterson.

Darlene opened with an introit followed by congregational worship. Robin Bergquist performed a moving rendition of the song Porcelain Heart during the offering.

Scripture readings included Hebrews 8:8-12 and passages from I Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts and the life of the body. Pam Johnson led our prayer time. Then Brooke Shannon took the pulpit.

Why Show Up?

"Why did you show up today?" Brooke began. Why did you bother rolling out of bed and come here, especially since you only have two mornings a week when you can stay home and be with your family in the morning. She jokingly said she knows why her kids showed up. Because she made them... or maybe because they get free cookies and goodies.

Brooke noted that coming to church is a choice, whether it is out of tradition or whether someone made us come, or maybe you're just checking things out.

The better question however is this one, "Why NOT come?"

Brooke detailed three of the primary reasons she comes to church: because God is real, God cares, and God's covenant.

God Is Real
Because she grew up in Colorado, she has often compared her faith journey to climbing mountains there. Mountain climbing is difficult, but rewarding. It requires preparation and perseverance. At times, you are unable to see the peak, yet must continue... and once you have reached the top, achieved your goal, there is a wholeness you experience. You just sit, rest and soak it in.

Yet, ultimately as you hike back down the mountain to the reality of the valley where you live you hold onto to the truth you experienced up there. It is difficult to live on those high places.

Brooke shared how in spite of her faults and inadequacies, Jesus has allowed her to grow as a person, and she knows the Lord is by her side to help her do the best she can.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." ~ I Peter 1:8-9

Brooke said God's character is very transparent. And we come to church because we know He meets us here. As Jesus said in Matthew 20:20, "Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them."

Brooke laughed as she noted how she is occasionally hooked on reality shows on TV. She cited the show True Beauty as one example. The show isn't about external beauty alone, but on their inward as well. What she found interesting is that these people are all really just like us, desiring to be accepted and treasured. This is the reality of God... He loves us no matter what.

As the Scripture states in Hebrews 10:23-25...
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

God Cares
The second characteristic of God that keeps me coming is this, that God cares. When we show up, our needs are met. Brooke noted how God works through others in our time together.

Many of us come here broken from week to week... Finances, relationships, work issues, family. We all experience hardships. And in our culture there is a tendency to discard broken things. So many things are disposable, from old razors, snack packs, cups, plates or replaceable, like TVs, computers, cars.

But here, in the fellowship, we find healing, wholeness. Where the world discards, Jesus redeems. To redeem means to rescue, save, deliver... Jesus came so we are not exchanged or cashed in.

Colossians 1:9-14 says, "9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

God's Covenant
The last characteristic of God that keeps Brooke coming is His Covenant. She shared her family's response when she told them on the phone that she was dating a pastor. Silence. When she said he was a pastor in the Covenant Church, they might as well heard her say she was joining a cult or convent.

But there's a reason Brooke says she attends a covenant church, not just because of the great location, cozy atmosphere, warm people or that her husband works here. She said she comes because she belongs. Having dedicated her life to Christ as a teen, she has found a home in the Covenant. She also said the Covenant name is distinctive to God's character.

The word covenant means an agreement between two parties. It's a solemn promise or vow, especially between God and people.

Brooke told about Abraham, the founder of our faith. But even with his remarkable faith and special relationship with God, Abraham messed up. In fact, the Bible is filled with stories of people who God used, despite their failings. God fulfills His covenants even though our human nature fails us.

Even when we fail, we're in it together. This is the nature of a church family. In fact, I hurt for others in our church family as if they were my own family, just as we celebrate and praise together.

We're all in this together, a church family. The church should be a place of unity with our diverse abilities. And we share common aims: to know God, love God and serve God.

I pray that you choose to show up because you too desire to be a part of God's kingdom, and participate in sharing it with others.

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