Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 36 – Tuesday in Holy Week
From the Scriptures:
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59 To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62 Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
‘I will follow you wherever you go but first…’ let me go and get the after-church coffee tray ready/tidy-up the mess from last night’s youth group/slip into the vestry to get the ‘correct’ coloured pulpit fall so that I can change it during the Sharing of the Peace! The examples I have written may make us laugh but I have seen each of them in action and wept.
The problem of church absenteeism is not simply one of non-attendance, many of the faithful are going about the business of the church and are physically in the building but they are not always in the Lord’s presence. Which, after all, is what really counts.
I am not for one minute suggesting that firing up the BBQ for the bring-and-share lunch is not a godly pursuit, much prayer and holy conversation happens in church kitchens up and down the land, but if that is all we ever do Sunday by Sunday we must not be surprised if we find ourselves drifting away from the Body of Christ and the generous love of the Beloved.
To be honest, if getting the coffee ready/church tidy/vestments correct meant any single one of my sisters or brothers was prevented from entering the presence of the One Who Loves us Best I would much rather there be no coffee, we put up with the untidiness, and I led worship in a Tee-shirt and shorts.
A phrase from yesterday’s words keeps on coming back to me. Often we are involved in ‘too much churching and not enough praying’. Just as, the old saw reminds us, sleeping in a garage won’t turn us into a Porsche; neither will simply being at church or being busy about church activities help us grow as living members of the Body of Christ. We need to be ‘spiritually attentive’ as well as ‘physically present’ or else we may as well mark ourselves ‘absent’ on the attendance register.
Down the ages the Teachers of the Faith have called us to learn the habit of being ‘recollected’. This moves us beyond simple church attendance to a realisation that our Beloved, through the Holy Spirit, is ever-present with us. There is not a single moment of our existence, from before our birth until we enter the joy of the life after life, that the One Who Loves us Best is not loving us. There are only times when we are not attentive to that ever-present love and care.
We attend churches to remind each other that we are loved wherever and whenever we are and not simply in a set aside building on a Sunday at 10am. If we are not paying attention to that love when we are gathered to help each other grow how will we ever know that love when we are alone?
I have often been told ‘you can be a Christian without going to church’. My response is, for I have seen wonderful fruit of this in people’s lives, that that is possible but it is a hard lonely path. More worrying for me is that we can fall into the habit of ‘going to church without being a Christian’. Oft-practised habits quickly become hard fast unchangeable traditions and so, with the best of intentions at heart, we end up making shipwreck of our faith.
pour out your Spirit upon your people, and grant us:
A new vision for your glory,
a new faithfulness to your word,
a new consecration to your service,
that your love may grow among us,
and your kingdom come.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Diocese of Bunbury, Australia)
- Have a look at church rotas and ensure that no one is prevented from being in the church service because they are busy about church business.
- If this applies to you… Give up on the unhealthy habit of commenting on why one or another person is not present at worship. Unless this is done with care and prayer it means we end up leaving our Beloved’s presence at the very moment we focus on someone else’s absence…
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017