Every Sunday in worship, God gets my attention. There’s always something that touches me or hits me over the head. Or both. It usually happens several times a Sunday. Sometimes it’s the choir anthem. Sometimes it’s the Prayers of the People. Sometimes it’s a phrase of the Scripture that I hadn’t quite noticed before. But always there are unexpected, holy moments in worship.
One of those holy moments came this Sunday when we were starting to pray the Lord’s Prayer together. From where I was sitting up front, I could hear the voice of a child saying the prayer, just a millisecond ahead of all of the grown-ups around her. I don’t know who she was. In fact, I’m not even sure that it was a little girl because I couldn’t see behind the Advent wreath. But her voice led me in that prayer. Isaiah had just said in the scripture reading that “a little child will lead them,” and it touched me to know that a child that small would know the Lord’s Prayer by heart and recite it with such clarity and confidence.
During the three months of my renewal leave, my family worshiped most Sundays at home. We visited a couple of churches, but most of the time, if we were in town, we practiced “home church.” One of the kids would light a candle. Another child would pick our opening hymn and I’d struggle through it on the piano. The next thing for us to do, of course, was to say the Prayer for Illumination before reading the scripture for the day. Then we’d hear the scriptures and talk about what we thought they meant. We’d pray together and then I’d try to play “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” like Jon Calvin. (Believe me, it just wasn’t the same. I only did it once.)
Several things struck me in those times of “home church.” The first was that our children knew the pattern of worship. They knew by heart the Prayer for Illumination. It felt natural to them and to all of us to pray for others after exploring the scriptures. The pattern of worship has sunk into them and shaped them, not because they have sat in a classroom and learned about them but because they have practiced them, week in and week out. For now those prayers and practices may seem like rote, but one day, I’m sure, one of them will stop and think about what it means to open your heart and mind to what God has to say. One of them might find comfort when the phrase “give to us our daily bread” comes unexpectedly to mind. Practicing “home church” made me realize more deeply how important patterns and practices are in shaping our lives in the faith.
Another thing that I learned was how much we missed being part of a worshiping community. Doing church at home was different and fun and good for us in a lot of ways, but we realized how much we love and need the church. After visiting another church in the area, one of the kids said, “Can we go back to our church, where we know people?” Yes, it seems, it is about relationships.
As a parent, it was a gift to see how our practice of coming to church every Sunday (and Wednesday) has really formed our children. How coming together with other believers every week to worship God and love one another has shaped them. Wow! Revelation! Going to church matters! Of course, going to church every week doesn’t make you holy. We know that. But, maybe there’s more to it than we thought.