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September 16, 2011

Just Talking

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

“Pastor, you know something? I can’t understand why I need to come to church any more? I went through Sunday School and Confirmation Class. But ever since, church has become more of a hassle. Why do I need to come to church and sing those boring hymns? My Sundays are the only day in the week I can let loose. My family likes to do stuff together, and church crimps our family time.”

“I think you are misusing your verbs, a bit. Instead of looking at church as a ‘need,’ look at is as a ‘want.’ It changes your equation.”

“Huh? OK. Why do I want to come to church?”

“That’s simple. Church is where God is. As someone who has gone through Sunday School and Confirmation Class, don’t you want to be with God?”

“But God is everywhere and in everything.”

“Oh, really. God is in the asphalt your car drives over. And God is in that plastic coffee mug you carry around…”

“Are you just trying to break my chops? I mean God is in nature, he’s all around us all the time.”

“What if you lived in the desert? That’s kind of a sweaty place for God to hang out, don’t you think? It’s so hot and dry. Wouldn’t you think that God would rather hang out at the beach? I could see Jesus at South Beach, couldn’t you?”

“God is everywhere and it doesn’t matter if it’s a million degrees. Since God made everything, He is everywhere.”

“But what about the Antarctic? Anyone who thinks that’s a nice place to live has have a few screws loose, don’t you think? I mean, it is so cold. That is why I think God hangs out in South Beach. Or maybe Laguna Beach in California.”

“I should have never brought this up.”

“No, it is a perfect topic to talk about. The world thinks that God is everywhere in nature, but they only like to put God in nice things. The trees, the little bunny rabbits hopping around in the fields, the flowers in the garden. No one wants to talk about God being in bad people. Terrorists, for example. No one says that God is in the terrorists, do they?”

“I’ll play along. No, no one says God is in a terrorist.”

“But doesn’t that go against the notion that God is in everything? Culture and society has taken a mythical and post-modern understanding of a higher power and tries to force feed it into the minds of a Christian. Sadly, the mystical sounds simple to grasp with its inclusiveness and since it doesn’t ignore the basic aspect of Christianity and Christ dying at the cross, Christians tend to accept it. What is bad about shoehorning God into everything, it minimizes where God truly is.”

“And where is God?”

“Where two are three are gathered in His name.”

“Huh?”

“I can see those Confirmation lessons have stuck with you. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 18, verse 20, Jesus tells us that He is there where two or three come together in His name. Trees don’t congregate in the name of Jesus. And sad to say, even the little bunnies don’t gather in the name of the Lord. Where two or three are gathered in His name? A perfect example is church.”

“So, the only place where God comes is in church?”

“Who said that? Do you need a physical building for God to come to His people? Of course not. We hold church services outside here at Saint Matthew’s. God doesn’t stay away because we’re sitting around a backyard table. He comes to His people in Word and Sacrament. His Word that pronounces His love and peace through His Son, Jesus Christ. His Sacrament of His Son’s body and blood, broken and shed at the cross for the forgiveness of sin. God comes to us in those ways, not because we have some mystical understanding of a generic god, but because God tells us that He comes to us in the gifts He gives. When you were Baptized, God sent His Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind to believe in Him and His Son. The Holy Spirit is in you and, through the use of God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, your faith is built up in Him. So, God is not in the trees or the flowers; He is in you, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“If God is in me, why then do I need church?”

“That’s simple. Church is where God comes to His people through Word and Sacrament. Every time we gather inside that building, God is there to give us strength to tackle the sinful world. Through the Word and the Holy Supper, our faith in Him is built up so when we exit His house and re-enter the world, we can stand firm in truth and live our lives as best we can for Him. The mystical junk being peddled by the world may sound nice, but it leads one away from God. Oh, and to more directly answer your question, why wouldn’t you need church? If that is where God is, why would you want to lounge outside in a bathing suit catching rays on a Sunday morning when you could spend an hour with God? Plus, only missing an hour of the sun isn’t too bad. Your skin will thank you in the end.”

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