One of my earliest memories of church took place in Clinton, Oklahoma. The shortest pew in First Christian Church was near the back door. The pew was just big enough to hold my Dad and my little brother and me. That is where I learned how to sing from a hymn book. Dad propped up the hymn book on one knee, and pointed to the words and sang with his usual enthusiasm. I learned that songs had verses and it is fun to sing with my Dad. I was 6 years old in 1935.
I never asked, “Why Church?” It was simply a given that my brothers and I would go to church with our parents. Many concrete steps went up to the entrance of church in Clinton and seemed to lead to Heaven. I loved the singing, the teaching and tolerated the prayers and sermons. Two years later, changed that. By then I knew who Jesus was and I wanted to be baptized. That was 75 years ago. Have I learned anything? If you asked me today, I would say, “Yes, I have learned some things and there is so much more I want to learn.”
I thought the world consisted of our little dot on the earth that we occupied in Oklahoma. It was 1939, and I saw pictures in the Life Magazine of bodies that had been straffed with bullets far from my safe corner. I didn't wonder about other children, their homes or lack of homes food or lack of food, or if they knew Jesus. I assumed that they had food, home, beds and parents. For me, tomorrow was always the expectation of another day of safety and plenty.
When I was 17, I heard a missionary talk about life in the mountains between Tibet and Burma. I began reading stories of life in China. I learned that life was tenuous in other countries. Belonging to Jesus had a high cost in other places. In church I learned some about Jesus, but the incredible wonder and mystery of Jesus was waiting for me to discover through marriage, the births of five children, losing one. Saying farewell to my Dad and Mother, my still born baby and many saints through the years.
I have had the opportunity to be in many 'gatherings' in many places. Each time we left another church family, the hurt in my heart reminded me how dear my church family is to me. So it was with the recent move. There are always so many stories of our growing together that are cut short. But the promise is a 'forever' awaits when we are reunited with the One who we delight in.
We have only begun to understand in a small part the joy of Jesus in fellowship, teaching, breaking of bread and prayer. How can it be? The wonder that God's people are God's people no matter where we are brings joy and peace. I re-read the recording of the first church to review what a church family is.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:40-47
Our God is a creator-giver of beauty. He created the earth with its luscious seasons. Just as He created His children to populate the earth. In creating us, he gave us the gift of choice. Somehow we humans want to choose our food, where we live, what car to drive, what school to attend and our friends. We also choose to rebel against giving God glory or living for Him. We want to choose our life style, ignoring our Father in Heaven. We want to choose to ignore worship and glorifying our Savior Jesus.
Have you ever come upon a scene of such beauty that your breath stops? The only way to draw more joy from the beauty is to give praise and share the beauty with someone else. That is when the joy reaches a higher plane.
The same is true when we worship God. The only way we can increase our joy is to glorify Him. We recognize the gift of life He has given and use that gift to praise him. He has given us brothers and sisters world-wide in Jesus Christ, not just in a local church, but world-wide. Our joy encompasses not just 'us' – but world-wide. And it is released in praising God and thanking Him!
The idea is that in praising God is the dynamo - the engine of a church. The sharing of praise for the price Jesus paid to gather us in. The picture of the following verse gives me an essence of our Lord....How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:27. Jesus waits for us to choose Him, to praise Him and to delight in Him.
C. S. Lewis has given us many thoughtful quotes, but this quote gives much to think about:“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” ― Reflections on the Psalms
Why Church? Because Church is the way to share the joy of Jesus with each other. Church is the place we learn His Word and practice His traits of compassion, gentleness and forgiveness. Church is a perfect place for sinners from generation to generation. Church is the perfect place for me.