February 26, 2024
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  • 4:59 pm Kirk and Cheryl Lewis highlighted as sponsors of the week
  • 4:58 pm Appreciate your election officials, get out and vote
  • 4:57 pm Zeta Rho tours Dani Heathington Activity Center

It’s a cold Sunday morning, and I’m warm at home, sitting in front of a great fire.

This is weird. At least, for me. As a pastor, I’m usually at church on Sundays a long time before this present hour.

Don’t get me wrong. If you think pastors don’t have Sunday mornings when they’d really like to sleep in, your opinion of the breed is far too high. One of my favorite cartoons shows a dear lady trying to pull the blankets off of her protesting husband as he yells, “I don’t want to go to church this morning, and you can’t make me!” To which she replies, “But, honey, you’ve got to go! You’re the pastor!”

I do wonder sometimes, usually on Sunday mornings, how I’d feel if I were a “civilian.” I know how I grew up. I know what Mom & Dad taught me by word and example. Dad was also a pastor and teacher and mentor of pastors, so my life has never been “normal.” (Make of that what you will.) My siblings and I pretty much grew up in a residential seminary.

But I think, even if that hadn’t been the case, my folks would have been at church every time the door was opened. It would have been more likely on a Sunday morning to hear them debating whether or not they should rob a convenience store (and let G. B. & Wilma give Bonnie & Clyde a run for their money) than whether or not they should go to church that day. They’d made that decision—the one about going to church—once and for all time years before. They probably made the decision like I made the decision—before they were born. Back when their grandparents or great-grandparents made the decision and thus blessed generations.

It didn’t matter if my parents had company at the house. It didn’t matter if the dog looked queasy or not. Or if the barometric pressure in Bolivia was conducive to church attendance. They went. Me, too. Even if I tried to look sick and feverish (which never worked).

That didn’t warp me; it blessed me. As I grew, the blessing increased when I learned to trust in Christ and not in me. (That’s the real gospel.) I realized that my salvation was not in peril if I missed a couple of Sundays; I learned that believers go because we want to honor and praise our Creator and Savior. I learned that we go because our presence is genuinely encouraging to those with whom we worship. I learned that when we go to worship, even when we don’t feel like it, we feel much better once we’ve worshiped. And I learned that if believers make the decision that “going” is our default mode, that one decision is a lot less gut-wrenching than having to make fifty-two decisions a year.

Do we always feel like going to worship? Of course not. Are we always excited about work or school or any of our other commitments?

But believers worship because of our relationship with our Father and his people, and because he is worthy of our praise.

For believers, come to think of it, we can discuss whether or not our “feeling like it” is particularly relevant to the discussion. I never got the feeling that Mom cared much whether I felt like going to church or not. She felt as if a duty could be a privilege, and a privilege a duty, and neither word would suffer much by being used in the same paragraph. Not that she would waste many words explaining.

Having said all of this, I’m very much aware that, if our attitudes are stinky and self-righteous, Satan might rather we go on to church and spread that soul-infection rather than stay home. (This gets complicated. It’s also quite possible to be religiously self-righteous about not being religious or self-righteous.)

Today, my wife and I are at home. We’ve had some “more than usual” COVID-19 exposure this week. Though we’ve already had two vaccinations, the disease itself, and a booster, we just didn’t want to take a chance—slim though it might be—to spread the crud.

So “video me” is leading worship this morning at church. “Real me” is sitting in front of the fire. And “sad me” is missing a great fellowship meal our church folks are enjoying today.

If you are a believer, I hope you can be at worship this morning. In any case, God understands your circumstances. But, in general (may I be blunt?), you need to go. People you love need you to go. God deserves that you go. And you’ll be glad you did.

That’s the truth. But if you hear me say it self-righteously (and I may be getting a little close to that), just “slap me up the side of the head” as a favor.

Curtis K. Shelburne

Faith Columnist

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