I don’t know about you, but when I was a little boy the highlight of my week was going to my Grandma Jenkins’ house for Saturday supper. Going to her house was always special, anyway. Any excuse was good enough to go and hang around with her and Grandpa. There was a special corner in their back yard that my Granddad had left unplanted … otherwise it was a pristine garden with flowers and shrubs, beautiful green grass and a small patch of vegetables … so that I could go and play. I would take a kid-size shovel and move the dirt around and then make freeways on which to drive my toy cars. I guess compared to GameBoys and Nintendo, playing in a pile of dirt doesn’t sound too inviting … but I loved it. I suspect most of us have some childhood memories like this one … a special time and place that can never be forgotten and will always be cherished.
Last Sunday morning I was with the Children’s Choir in the choir room and we were talking about the end of the choir year in a couple of weeks. One child said to me, “Our family doesn’t come to church and Sunday School in the summer anyway. We take a vacation from church.” Wow! I asked a question that I’m sure the child did not understand … and that’s OK because I didn’t want to confront a child about a parental decision. But I said, “Do you stop visiting your grandparents during the summer, too?” It was a rhetorical question and didn’t receive a response, and the subject ended right there as we started to sing our anthem.
But let’s think about this. We Christians call God our “Heavenly Father” and we call the church (both the building and the gathered body of Christ) “God’s House”. With the clear understanding that I don’t think God is an old man just above the clouds … I want to explore this. Why, if God is indeed a loving parent to all of us, would we not want to go and visit regularly? Summer and winter … all year round. Why not?
In my own experience, even after I left home, and long after my grandparents Jenkins had entered the Church Eternal, I always called my folks at least once a week. Saturday morning was the time set aside to call mom and dad and let them know what exciting stuff had happened this week. I remember often thinking … ‘I need to remember to tell mom about this.’ Often I made trips on Christmas morning, going halfway across the continent to be home for part of that special day … and for many years not really being able to afford the air fare. But I did it anyway, because I know how much it meant to them … and to me. All our kids descended upon us this last Christmas … and it was the best we’d had since they were all little and waking us up at 4 a.m. to open presents!
This business of touching base at ‘home’ is a big deal in our lives. Both for us and for our parents. And I believe it is so with God. You know, I think he expects us to come by some time during the weekend for a brief visit. A couple of hours should do it! Not much of our week. But for too many of us, church is not our ‘home’ … but a strange place of stained glass and pews where we are just visitors to a strange place. And it’s not the furniture and windows that are the problem. My grandparents had funny overstuffed furniture and a twelve inch TV, but it didn’t matter. And God’s house needs to become that comfortable for us. Comfortable enough that we should feel a deep sense of loss when we don’t stop over on Sunday for conversation and a meal.
This is our Divine Parent we’re talking about here! And I believe God misses us when we don’t show up for Sunday dinner. Oh that we missed it as much as he misses us!
Food for thought …