I think the sentiment that church really doesn’t happen on Sunday is total crap (to put it bluntly). It goes against centuries of tradition – both Jewish and Christian. The pinnacle of Israel’s and the Church’s formation took place in public liturgical worship. The services really meant something to them. Sure, this can be abused, but so can the idea that Sunday church doesn’t matter, and only picnics in the park do. For too long, evangelical Christians have been too critical of those who faithfully attend Sunday worship as if they are second-rate Christians, as if they don’t know true community, as if they are not really committed, etc. Sadly, we reap what we sow: We can’t talk this for long without undermining Sunday worship. I know, for some, I sound like a museum-piece… and that’s ok. I don’t mind. I know that it is very cool and hip right now to criticize the church, be cynical about its future, disparage its workers, and pretend that organization is the devil’s greatest work. (Interestingly, the same folk who decry “organized” religion would demand that their hospital, library, and school be organized.) But I can vouch as a pastor who prayerfully puts in long hours in order to make sure my flock is spiritually fed each week, that a low attendance impacts my spirit. I preach better when my flock is with me. I preach worse when I feel alone. For more of my rantings on the necessity and centrality of corporate worship, check out my most recent sermon “All Together Now”. Please accept these ravings in the spirit in which they are given – with much love and concern. The pursuit of true spiritual transformation cannot happen apart from self-denying commitment to the good of others, and one way to maintain this stance is to meet together regularly for worship, instruction, and service. No matter how innovative the church becomes, it will never improve on the discipline and rhythm of regular liturgical formation.

(And now a link to Rich’s sermon, All Together Now, his look at Psalm 150 as if offers a concentrated vision the where, why, how, and who of corporate worship.)

Many of us have gone through what Dan Kimboll called Reality Church, the stages of our involvement with the thing we call church. Our reactions to “how we do church” has folks all over the place, calling for more “high” church to the practical eradication of any sort of weekly gathering. I know many folks have wrestled with the disillusionment of seeing some “mega-churches” sprawl out of control, focusing on the building and its maintenance—caught up in empire building—while forgetting about the community, the neighborhood. Church isn’t a place. We’ve come to think of church as that building we go to on Sundays, that performance we go witness, that thing we do.

As I am thinking about the idea of church membership, the koininia, the fellowship, that comes from belonging to a people, I can’t help but recall something I heard about pods of whales. Humpback whales come together, as a pod, with their individual songs. Once they are together, they learn a new song, changing their individual songs, and then go their way to teach their songs to others. Church is a relationship, the developing a community of faith, a sacred space we carve out in our world and lives.

With the common goal of being committed to following Jesus we gather together. The grace of God is a school in Christ and everyone is welcome in the school … but the school is meant to progress you. The school is to “graduate” disciples. The church should be countercultural, a school of life, a pocket of resistance against the status quo, a foretaste (and first fruit) of things to come. It isn’t always.

“It is important to think about the Church not as “over there” but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” –Henry Nouwen