The 9-5, Monday-Friday, 40 hour per week, weekends off work week seems to be a thing of the past for many people. Various start times and shifts throughout the day and night, rotating schedules and “on call” demands have certainly redefined what a “normal” work week looks like. You combine that with the number of extra activities that are available for us as individuals and families to do outside of work and school, along with the relative ease of travel and there are just a whole lot of things working against people making time for church. You might even hear someone say, “It’s not that I don’t want to come to church, it’s just that we don’t have the time for it, at least not right now.” Time continues to remain one of those commodities that people have not yet discovered a way of manufacturing more of. Yes, there are multitasking and time efficiency strategies, but even those strategies have not found a way of adding an extra hour to the day or the year or to our lives. If anything, all those time management strategies only reinforce the point that time is in fact limited. And because time is limited, our time is inherently valuable.
So what are you going to spend your time on? Just like a person has to decide is it worth it to spend $145 on a pair of shoes, or $50,000 on a pickup truck, or $5 on the McDonald’s extra value meal, so we are continually deciding what is and what is not worth spending our time on. So what is worth spending your time on? Is church really worth your time?
When we talk about spending time at church, I think it’s important for us to remember a few things about what God does NOT say about church. God does NOT tell us how long our church services need to be. There is no 60 minute rule in the bible. I’m going to remember that when people start watching the clock!! God does NOT tell us how many church services that we need to have each year. While God does NOT tell us those things, God DOES tell us how valuable we are to him. And God doesn’t just tell us, God shows us how valuable we are to him.
In Romans 5:8 the Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God was willing to spend his own Son’s life so that we could experience what we could never experience in this life. Yes, this life is filled with a lot of really good things. We can experience the love of a family, the satisfaction of a job well done, the joy of friendships. But all of those things have been tainted by sin and selfishness: arguments due to thoughtless words, frustration due to laziness or negligence, disappointment due to broken promises. But God wanted you to experience more than what this world has to offer. He wanted you to experience the fullness of his blessing, a peace and perfection that would never end. Yes the cost would be high, but God thought you were worth his time.
God’s Son Jesus left eternity and entered human history to live under the same limitations that we do. Each day Jesus woke up to love God with all his heart, all his soul and all his strength. At every moment of every day, Jesus faced the same decisions we face in how he would show that love for God in what he chose to do and not to do, what to say and what not to say. But unlike us Jesus’ decisions were always what God wanted, they always showed perfect love for God. Jesus perfectly balanced patience and action, work and rest, time with friends and time with family, time at church and time in the world. Jesus did that not to prove that it could be done, or to publish a book on time management. No. Jesus did that because he has seen our failures to spend our time in ways that show love for God. He has seen us spend our time on worthless things – , entertainment that exploits God’s gifts, social media rants that destroy reputations. He has watched our lives swing out of balance, neglecting family for work, and neglecting work for recreation. He has watched us trade in the eternally valuable for that which is temporary, Bible study for breakfast, Sunday school for soccer, family devotions for TV. Jesus used his time perfectly, for us who have not.
Jesus’ time in this world came to an end when he went to the cross to die. Jesus experienced the eternity of hell, complete unending separation from God’s goodness and blessing. Jesus suffered that eternity for us, so that we would never need to. He took our place in life and death, and by doing so, he paid the price for our admission into the eternity of heaven. This is how much God thinks that you are worth. As Jesus says, “You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). If you ever question that, look at what God was willing to spend for you! He was willing to pay with his Son’s life for you to experience a life without, a life without suffering, selfishness or loss. Life as God intended it to be. That is the life that God gives to every Christian through faith – the life of heaven. Through that relationship of faith in Jesus, he guarantees you forgiveness of sins and eternal blessings. This is a relationship that gives what no one else could possibly give to you.
When you see those eternal benefits, you begin to recognize the value of your relationship with Christ through faith, it’s no wonder why Moses reminded God’s people, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6,7). I think the point is clear, isn’t it? God wants his people to know him and follow him in faith. But how does that take place? Did you notice the word that is used here for what parents are supposed to do? “Impress them on your children…” When does something leave an impression? Have you ever sat on an iron deck chair that has a pattern on it? If you sit on that chair for even a few moments, it will leave an impression on your backside, but quickly fade once you get up. But if you sit on it for 60 minutes, you’re going to be walking around with an impression on your backside for quite some time. The longer you sit, the greater impression it leaves. God wants us to spend time with him and his Word so that he may leave a lasting impression on us. The more time we spend with God’s Word the greater impression it leaves on us. It is an impression of God’s love, faithfulness, power and promises. An impression that reminds us of just how valuable our relationship with Christ actually is. On the door to the Pastor's office you will see a verse of the week, it is also now in the bulletin. Read the verse every week, it will give you more time with God and his word.
I sometimes hear people say that they don’t go to church because they’re spending time with their family, or that Sunday mornings is the only time that they have to spend together. I’m glad that you’re spending time with your family. It’s important. Those are people that God has entrusted to your care and caring for people takes time. I also understand that there are some parents who come from families where parents didn’t spend so much time with their kids. Now that they are parents themselves, they want to make sure that isn’t the case in their own family. I get that. But time with our family cannot replace our time with Christ. The blessings of Christ are wonderful experiences and are eternal. A relationship with Christ is the most important relationship for every family member and gets better when you experience it together.
You heard Jesus emphasize that repeatedly in his words from Matthew chapters 10 and 16. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28) and then later, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Yes, our relationship with Jesus is most important because it has eternal ramifications. And church is the place where God regularly and repeatedly comes to us through his Word and Sacraments and impresses upon us his relationship with us. It is a relationship of his forgiveness, his faithfulness, his guidance, his power, and his promises. And yes, we need that. Remember how I said that if you sit on an iron deck chair for 60 minutes it will leave a lasting impression? While that’s true, it’s not permanent. While the impression will last longer than just sitting for a few moments, eventually it also begins to fade. If you really want the impression to stay, you have to keep going back and sitting down.
Isn’t the same true for us as Christians? How quickly that impression of Christ can begin to fade once we go out from this place and we start to face the struggles of living our Christian lives. We need to keep coming back, to sit down and spend time with Jesus, to have him make his perfect impression upon us. What better place to spend time with your family, where God, the creator of family, can guide us in how to be a better parent, child, spouse or friend. This is time for us to be strengthened for when we need to take those unpopular stands that our faith calls us to take, or to have those difficult conversations with a child or parent about their relationship with Christ that seems to have lost its value in their eyes. This is the time for us to become better prepared to evaluate the true worth of things, of what we will and will not choose to spend our time on. After all, our time is limited. Our time is valuable. May God help us to use that time in ways that are truly valuable and will leave an eternal impression on us and those around us.
‒ Pastor Pam