Rev. Ed Smith is a recently retired Presbyterian minister.
It was a bad morning. But then many Sunday mornings were.
And it was all because the Jacksons were a Christian family.
Does that seem strange? Well, for the non-Christian family most Sunday mornings are great — the one morning when one does not have to think about responsibilities, about work, about schedules.
But for the Christian family it's altogether different. Although our normal "work" responsibilities are not pressing us, there are those other responsibilities — getting oneself and one's family ready for church can serve as an example.
So it was on this particular Sunday Harry and his ten-year-old son, Curt, ended up arguing about going to church.
Young Curt started it: "I don't feel like going to church today."
Harry tried to cajole him, then to threaten him, but finally he realized that the best thing to do was to ask what the problem was.
Curt explained in one word: "B-o-r-i-n-g!"
Now that might have been sufficient explanation for some, but it was not for Harry.
"What do you mean? We have lots of variety in our church. Different types of hymns and choruses. Different kinds of special music. And our minister often changes his style of preaching. I can't see where you have any reason for complaint."
Curt slumped down further in the chair. "I still say it's boring."
Harry decided to try a different approach. "Well, maybe the trouble isn't with the church. Maybe the trouble is with you."
Curt straightened up from his sprawled position: "Something wrong with me? There's nothing wrong with me!"
"Oh?" said his father. "I'm a bit surprised that you think that you are perfect. Especially after…"
"Don't remind me about last night," Curt interrupted. "That wasn't my fault!"
"Well," said his father, "Let's forget about that for now. Tell me, why do you think we go to church week after week?"
Curt thought for a minute and then said, "If you're like grandpa, you go to catch up on your sleep."
His father felt that that remark needed a comeback: "Grandpa is real old. He can't help it if he falls asleep at church."
"Maybe he's bored too but he's too polite to mention it," Curt replied.
His father decided to ignore that, and pressed his son for a better answer.
Without too much hesitation, Curt said: "I guess most people come to hear the minister preach."
"Well, it's true that we should come for that. And, by the way, you should be listening to what the minister or your Sunday School teacher is saying."
"Oh, I listen with both ears."
His father was delighted, until Curt went on: "One ear to take it all in, and the other to let it back out."
Harry decided that this was just another example of his son's perverted sense of humour. (Certainly he didn't inherit that from his side of the family.) "You still haven't found the right answer as to why we should go to church."
"I heard mother talking last week about Mrs. Lawrence's new suit. It almost sounded as though some might go just to see who has new clothes."
"That's certainly not the right answer! But it may apply to some people. Someone once said, 'Some people go to church to close their eyes while others go to eye the clothes.'" Harry chuckled at his own sense of humour, but Curt didn't join in.
"Hey," Curt said, "I know another reason why some go. To spend time with their friends."
"That's not a bad answer, Curt. We should certainly make friends with others from our church. And we'll undoubtedly find that the best friends we can have are the friends we make in church."
A sad look spread over Curt's face. "Yeah, I still miss Homer. We used to go to Sunday School together all the time."
"I can understand that you miss him. He was a real good friend. And a good influence on you as well."
"Hey, I bet you're going to say that we go to church to hear the Word of God."
Harry's face brightened. "I'm glad you mentioned that. It's very important that we hear what the Bible has to say to us. And we should make sure we are really listening when the minister reads from the Word of God. But we can read the Bible for ourselves at home."
Suddenly an inspiration hit Curt: "Hey, I know! It's the offering — when we give our money for God's work. We can't do that at home."
"Well, that is important. If we didn't do that, the church would have to close its doors. And we must never forget that giving our offering is meant to be an act of worship."
Hearing this remark, Curt's face really brightened. "Hey! Now I've got it! You just gave me the clue. Worship! That's why we go to church!"
A smile radiated across his father's face. "That's right, son. And we need to remember that every Sunday. We go above all to worship God — to show that we love him, and to thank him for all the wonderful things he does for us."
Curt thought for a moment and then he said: "But, Dad, us kids are only there for the first few minutes of the worship service."
"That's right," his father said. "And just because of that you really need to concentrate on worshipping God in those few minutes."
"But, Dad, that's hard to do!"
"Actually, Curt, worship is one of the easiest things for us to do. And also one of the hardest."
"One of the easiest? And also one of the hardest? That sounds dumb!"
"I mean just what I said. It's one of the easiest, because, if we really think about what Jesus has done for us, we can hardly help worshipping him and telling him how much we love him."
"So it's easy."
"Yes, but at the same time, it's also very hard, because to worship God in the deepest sense we have to concentrate all our powers on really loving God. After all, Jesus said that we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. We have to make sure that what we claim we are doing is what we really mean to do — that's what is meant by 'in truth'. And also we must make sure we are allowing God's Holy Spirit to guide our spirit in what we are doing. That's what 'in spirit' means."
Curt seemed to be thinking this over. And then he said: "Yeah! And didn't Jesus say that we are to love God with all our heart and soul and strength and other stuff? Hey, I guess that means with everything we've got."
"Exactly. And that isn't easy."
"So I guess worshipping God at church every Sunday is pretty important?"
"That's right, Curt. In fact, it may well be the most important thing we do all week long."
"Wow!" said Curt. "I never thought about that."
His father felt that he had made his point. "Unfortunately a lot of Christians never have thought too much about it. If they did, they'd never find church boring. When we think of who God is — how great and glorious — and that he is so very desirous for each on of us to worship him — why then worship becomes exciting!"