Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to Church Sunday

Today is the first day in our 36th week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures* this week are:

  •  2 Chr 29-31; 1 Cor 8
  •  2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chr 32; 1 Cor 9; Ps 67
  •  Isa 36-37; 1 Cor 10; Psalm 123
  •  2 Kings 20; Isa 38-40; 1 Cor 11; Ps 68
  •  Isa 41-44; 1 Cor 12
This coming Sunday, many churches around the United States are celebrating "Back to Church Sunday."  Check out this video promo for the event (linked from Youtube).  You might be surprised.

Why not invite someone to church this coming Sunday?  They might not be like you.  They might not "do church" the same way you do.  They might not know how to "do church" at all.  They might not fit into the same social circles, or even have the same standards of cleanliness that you have.  But invite them to church anyway.  Let's pack the pews this week!

In 2 Chronicles 30, we read about a Jewish version of "Back to Church Sunday."  The Israelites had neglected their regular observance of the Passover.  King Hezekiah decided it was high time that everyone get back to worship.  So he called a sacred assembly, and the people came.  They came, just as they were.  Not everybody was prepared for what was going to happen, but they came anyway.  And that's the way it ought to be when you go to church.  Whether you're ready or not--come anyway.

The people came, even though there weren't enough priests who were prepared to serve.  The people came, even though the preacher was the king and not a priest or prophet.  King Hezekiah said:

“O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.  Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.  For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him (2 Chronicles 30:6-9).”

If you've been away from church for awhile, or if you've never been to church at all, God wants you to turn to Him.  If you're a regular attender, then God wants you to invite someone to church.  Even if church's isn't perfect...even if you're not perfect...even if "those people" aren't perfect...God wants everyone in His house, seeking Him.

Verse 17 says that "there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves."  A lot of people think that they have to get themselves cleaned up--either spiritually or physically--before they come to church.  But it's okay--God wants you to come, just as you are.  The king and his people showed up just as they were, and look what happened:

For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone  who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary's rules of cleanness." And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.  And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:18-21).

You don't have to get your life straight before going to church and seeking God.  Going to church and seeking God gets your life straight.  When you turn to God, He will bring joy to your life.  Verses 26-27 say:

So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.

This Sunday, I hope you'll get back to church.  If you've been away for awhile, don't worry about that awkward feeling that you expect to have.  I promise, lightning won't strike just because you step in the building.  The church won't catch on fire.  But you might catch on fire--with your faith rekindled, you may just feel the warmth of Christ returning to your life.  

This Sunday, I hope you'll invite someone to church.  It may be the best thing you've ever done for your neighbor, your coworker, your friend.  Invite them to church.  You'll be glad you did.

*Scriptures taken from the ESV. 

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