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I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
I remember my father reciting these lines. I'm not sure why they affect me
and even less sure if I understand
what they mean. I think was captured by the picture in my mind of this statute, by the
rhythm of these words. Now I understand perhaps a little of the irony I think this morning the
part of what I want talk you about is almost as ironic as this poem.
Is the church like this?
Is the church nothing more than a colossal wreck? Is it a place where God's
works were to be
displayed and all that's left is the lifeless things on lone and level stands stretching far away? Is this
the ultimate irony? Something which should be a proud monument to God's power on earth is
nothing? I don't think so for if I did I wouldn't be standing here before you this morning.
What is the church though? Why do we come here on Sunday mornings? What is
it about this place?
Sunday after Sunday we find ourselves crossing the threshold coming here sitting quietly, the hymm singing, hearing songs sometimes clapping, sometimes praying, listening to a sermon, shaking
some hands, an occasional hug perhaps and then we go home. Is the church this physical building or
is the church much more than this? Is it the collection of people who come here? Or is the church
I think there are a variety of reasons that people come to church and I would
like to take some time to
explore those and perhaps at the end it will end up at some truth and from that perhaps we can learn
something and all of us come away encouraged.
Being very simplistic I think there are three reasons that people come to church,
that people want
to be part of church.
Let me read a piece from my church paper the Mennonite Herald
"You have a really great hospital here doctor."
"There some things I don't understand though."
The doctors eyebrows rose, "What?"
The visiting reporter frowned, "Well, for example, that last woman who
came in, when you asked her
problem was she was very insistent that she had no problem."
The doctor nodded, "Have you talked to the other patients?"
"I guess they all told me the same thing."
"Did you ask them why they were here?"
"Of course, some said they were here because they love the architecture
with antiques. Some said
they love to listen the lectures. Some said they like the music on the intercom. Some said they
really appreciated the nurses and the aides. Some said it was a convenient location. Not one of
them said a thing about being sick, wanting health or believing that they could be healed here."
The doctor frowned, "Well yes they really do come here for healing. But
they want healing to be
given by just sort of putting it out there... you know, just filling the air with it. Then they can
come in, never admit they are sick, absorb the healing of the air, leave again without anyone ever
knowing they were in the first-place."
"That's insane. I never heard of such a thing. Why would they do that?
Why is it so bad to admit to
" Well, sometimes they have a point. Unfortunately, since the other patients
here all play the same,
nothing wrong with me game, they can be pretty rude to those who admit sickness. You may
admit to some general sickness, but they viciously attack any specific sickness has been much
worse than anything they've ever had. Some of them even become afraid that another sickness may
bring it contamination into the hospital but will affect everyone. I've heard some of them say that
we have a really fine hospital and we don't want sick people here."
It's a funny thing. For some people the church is like hospital. It is a place
to come if you are
sick sometimes spiritually sick occasionally physically sick. These people are looking for healing.
I think there's another reason that people come. Some churches have this kind
of person more
than others. What we do Sunday morning? Go to church. When I was in seminary I remember
the great revelation that was to me when people talked about the three generations of church
goers. Christ comes into the first generation he changes lives dramatically. He moves hearts. Revival
has occurred. In the second generation people know that this is happened. They saw this as children
and they know that it is real and so they come they come to listen. The third generation though is well
distanct from this revival. They have a hard time relating to it. They believe it happened but they
come not because of that only but because of what they've always done. I'm talking about the
habit. Some people come to church on Sunday morning out of habit.
There is the third reason that people come to church on Sunday morning to this
One could be really crass and simply call it the social reason. Here they have their friends, the
people they know, people whose lives they've shared over the years. I suspect that there is more to
this reason than simply the social collection, the social gathering of people. I think there's
something that goes deeper though not much. It has to do with common purpose. If you were to
talk to many of these people they would tell you that they come to worship. These people
understand that there is a God. But they come here on Sunday morning to be together with others
who have this belief.
Oh I'm sure there are other reasons. But these three would have to stand as
the principal three. So as
someone asked to minister to these people on a Sunday morning my question is "How do I meet
their needs? How does one reach into their lives give them what they are seeking? Seeking is hard
work. To ask people to seek for even an hour once a week can be difficult.
What would God say? If God were to stride through those doors at this moment,
Stand here at the front
of the church pointing a finger at each one then asking you "Why are you here?" what would you say?
And how would he respond? Would he be pleased with what he sees, with what he heard?
I have painted a grim picture of the church in the reasons that people come
here. If the Scriptures for
this week have anything to say to us it that we need to speak with a prophetic voice. We need to encourage the sick. And He will walk with us.
The suggestion here, of course, is that even on our worst days, we can accomplish
wonderful things for God. Even on our worst days, we can be as effective as Michael Jordan. I
mean, I love that television ad: I've lost over 300 games, I have been asked to take the game
winning shot 26 times and missed; every time I fail I get better.