Easter 2 2006
Once in a while, the children would say, do we have to go to church? Claudia would say, yes and that would be the end of it, but it is an interesting question. We never said why we just showed them by example that it was what we were going to do.
Why do we go to church? Lots of people came last week. Today, not so many. You are the people who come to church the week after Easter. So the question is can you say why it is important to go to church? If it is just a habit and you canít say why, I think it is time for you to think about it.
Perhaps we can get at the answer from the other side. As a Pastor I frequently get asked, ďYou donít have to go to church to be a good person, do you? To which I usually reply, I guess not but I go because I know that I am a bad person.
There is another form of this that goes.; Well, you can be a good person without going to church because I have my own spirituality.
Today we have the lesson where Jesus comes to give peace and forgiveness to his disciples who had deserted them when he needed them the most. He essentially recalled them, because the first time it did not stick.
Jesus said, peace be with you. I donít think this is inner peace, like the people who say they have their own spirituality.
If you see religion as primarily a personal choice you make to find inner peace, then you donít need to come to church. Inner peace is a real need, but Christ taught you canít have inner peace without being in a right relationship with God and with his creation. Forgive us our trespasses as we for give those who trespass against us. If our community is broken down there is no peace.
Jesus offered peace on the first Sunday after Easter to his church to those who were gathered. Thomas found his peace with his fellow disciples in Church. If he went home instead of staying, I donít know what would have happened.
So back to the original question. Do we have to go to church. If it is all about you, no, but didnít God send his son because he so loved the world? Jesus wanted to save the whole world. It is about living in peace with each other, not by ourselves. You canít have that peace, in the whole world unless we live in peace with each other. And I am sure we canít do that unless Jesus, the Christ leads us to it.
The disciples kept telling Thomas, they needed to include him to be whole. It is Jesus, his cross and resurrection that makes it possible for us to live together peacefully. The church whenever it divides over triviality, betrays Christ again.
We need to focus on Jesusí call to receive the Holy spirit and to pass it on. We must not ever be petty. Petty people are evil and destructive. Pettiness makes it impossible for others to find Christís peace. The church has a well earned unfortunate reputation for being petty, and many who are un-churched will give that as a reason for not coming to church.
If we canít stay focused on our mail reason for being, sharing the peace of Jesus, then people are going to stay home and try it on their own. Here today we are gathered as the forgiven, not the good. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to offer salvation to it. That has become our job.
Our job is not to delineate right and wrong, but to bear unceasing witness to the limitless love of God in the birth, life death and resurrection of his Son, our Jesus Christ.