In the traditional Chinese calendar, Sunday begins the Year of the Water Snake. Its great fun to watch the celebration activities. I always like parades and fireworks. Like our Thanksgiving celebration, for many people this is a special time for enjoying family and favorite foods!
Traditional celebrations tend to have many levels of meaning. For example, for most Americans Thanksgiving is a secular celebration of family, food, and football. However, anyone with knowledge of American history knows that Thanksgiving is in its origin a religious celebration. As the Pilgrims were thankful to God, so we continue the tradition of thanking God for the blessings of the year gone by.
That’s the interesting thing about culture. We can experience culture at different levels of meaning. In many cases, that deeper meaning is either religious or has significant implications for our faith. In the case of Thanksgiving, that deeper meaning reinforces our Christian faith. In the case of the Year of the Water Snake, much of its deeper meaning is in conflict with our Christian faith.
Christianity and church also have a deeper significance. For some people who attend very liturgical churches, their faith is centered in what sometimes is called “smells and bells.” Liturgical practices can create a sense of rhythm and stability within which our faith grows, but they all too easily can become an empty shell with no real faith inside.
Those who attend more liberal or “progressive” churches, often center their faith in service or social action. I was looking at the webpage of one such church here in Chicago that redefines traditional Christian beliefs so as to affirm every lifestyle under the sun. Their words sound very pleasant (they have a great scriptwriter) but, in truth, they are far from the Christianity of the Bible, the great traditional creeds of the church, or the faith of believers for two millennia.
For some, attending church is about relationships. They go to church to be seen as respectable members of the community, to find friends, to make business contacts, and so forth. There’s nothing wrong with relationships. Jesus said, “by this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” I don’t think He could have affirmed the importance of relationships more strongly. But, you can form friendships in many settings: a bar, the health club, work, and so forth. Certainly the church is not just a place to form relationships.
Why do you go to church? Is it because your culture affirms its value? Is it so that you can get a sense of rhythm and stability life? Is it so that you can make the world a better place? Is it so that you can have relationships? Why do you go to church?
At Cornerstone we believe that the church is the body of Christ. We gather together as members of His body to worship Him. As our worship leaders often remind us, “Worship is not what you get. It is what you give to God.” What is unseen to many is that when church becomes the members of the body of Christ gathering together to worship Him, all of the other things that people substitute for this happen.
Join us this Sunday to worship Christ.