Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The Devotion of a Few
I remember one first service family introducing themselves to a second service family. They mentioned how they were "early birds" and that was why they liked the early service. The late service folks said they we early birds, too. They were up and in the car by 7:30 am to arrive at the Church for Sunday school at 9:30 am -- they had nearly a two hour commute! "Why would you do that?' was the first service reply. Why, indeed.
I am struck by those whose need for and devotion to our assembling together around the Word and Table of the Lord involves such sacrificial choices. It seems that in some cases, when things are too easy, they are too easy to pass up. It makes me think that perhaps membership is far too easy. We all have paper members who have not been among the worshiping community of faith for a long time and show no signs of reappearing. There are always excuses and I find being the father figure and holding them to account one of the more necessary but distasteful parts of the Pastoral ministry.
A number of things a person can belong to require certain services to be regularly used or their membership is rendered invalid. Consider the places where we log in on our computer only to find out that since it was too long since our last log in, our identity has been removed and we have to re-register. Could it be, should it be that membership in the congregation should be renewed on an annual or biennial basis? I have long been troubled by the fact that people take their participation so casually. Perhaps a membership covenant that asked for regular renewals might serve as a means of affirming the ties the bind, so to speak. We have several families - not formal members here although their membership resides in another LCMS congregation - but they are among the most faithful and reliable both for worship and service. Are these not more "members" than those who attend sporadically or not at all?
It has often been said that folks do not realize what they have until it is gone. In this respect, I have had countless folks move away only to find they cannot find a church home where the liturgy is there, the preaching Law and Gospel, and the kind of rich diversity in hymnody and music we know here. Some of these folks have then moved back here for one reason or another and become more regular than they were in the past. But others have learned the bad habit of non-attendance and their experience has made them less regular both where they were and when, on occasion, they have moved back. The point being that we seem to learn more quickly the habit of non-attendance than the good habit of being regularly together in the Lord's House, around the Word and Table of the Lord, on the Lord's Day.
Just a few rambling thoughts on the overall theme of church attendance I began on Sunday...