Comer: Church attendance: An opportunity to recharge yourself and others
One of my favorite shows is “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I like it for the obvious reason, because of the humor, but also because every now and then there’s an episode of a little more seriousness that makes me think.
One episode that sticks in my mind is of Ray, the lead character, and a battle he has with his family members about going to church. Ray’s wife, kids, parents and brother all go to Mass every Sunday, but he doesn’t. A heated conversation occurs between Ray and his father about the subject, and later on, Ray and his wife have a discussion about it. Ray’s wife presses him on why he won’t go, to which Ray answers:
“When I go there, I should be thinking about God, right? But, instead, I’m thinking about some column I’m working on; what’s up with this guy’s scalp; oh, that lady sneezed, I’m not shaking her hand. I’m not focused. I feel like I’m just going through the motions and that’s not respectful, right?”
Ray explains that he tries to be a good person every day and asks why he should go to church every Sunday to prove his goodness.
Ray asks his wife why she goes to church.
“I go to thank God for you and the kids, and to pray for the strength to get through another week with you and the kids,” she says. “No, really, I go to get reenergized, to be part of something that’s bigger than me and my little problems. It reminds me that I’m not the be-all and end-all. There’s something out there that’s greater than me.”
She adds that she likes the feeling of community and tradition. There’s a lot more to the episode, but suffice it to say, Ray ultimately commits to going to church every Sunday.
I think one of the reasons this particular episode resonates with me so much is because it challenges me to ponder why I go to church every Sunday. What are my reasons?
Ever since I was little, I’ve had a habit of going to church every Sunday. For me growing up, church was just where I was supposed to be on Sundays, similar to school being where I belonged on weekdays.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the benefits of going to church, which I think align with what Ray’s wife told him in the episode. In particular, I like that she mentioned getting reenergized. There are a lot of reasons to go to church, but all of them serve to spiritually reenergize me, which I know that I need. Here’s how going to church spiritually reenergizes me:
1. Going to church helps me to learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and their love for me. Last week in church, we studied the story of Zacharias and Elisabeth as told in Luke 1 of the New Testament. Zacharias was a priest when Herod was king of Judaea. His wife was Elisabeth. Even though they had no children because Elisabeth was barren and they were well stricken in years, “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Luke 1:6) An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias and told him his prayer had been heard and Elisabeth would bear a son, whose name would be John. The prophecy was eventually fulfilled and John, who would become John the Baptist, was born. This story was a great example to me that even though things may not be going the way I want them to go, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are aware of me. They hear me and never forget me. I was grateful to be in church to have that lesson reemphasized to me.
2. Going to church helps me to more easily remember that there’s an eternal perspective, which is that in the grand scheme of eternity, this time on Earth is a really short period of time and that I need to prioritize things of eternal significance. This can be extremely easy to forget because of the trials we face. Colossians 3:1-2 says: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
3. Going to church allows me to hear the testimonies of others. A lot of people have amazing spiritual experiences, and going to church allows for me to hear those experiences. I’m not too prideful to say that I need as much of that as I can get. I cannot say how many times I’ve gone to church a bit begrudgingly because it just simply wasn’t convenient for whatever reason, but then I heard something said in church and I realized how grateful I was that I was there. Every single week, without fail, I hear something said in church that makes me grateful that I chose to go.
4. Going to church gives me an opportunity to be a strength to others. If going to church allows me to be spiritually recharged by the things I learn from others, then going to church allows others to be spiritually recharged by the things they learn from me, either by my words or by my behavior and attitude. By sharing my testimony and being a light to others, I’m giving other people a reason to go to church, which I know will bless them. We have the opportunity to be a positive difference in the lives of others and I try not to take this lightly.
When I think of all the blessings that come from going to church, my desire to go is strengthened. I don’t see going to church as something I’m doing to check a proverbial box, or to show anyone that my righteousness is at a certain level, but rather something I’m doing because it actually helps me overcome the challenges that I face while giving me an opportunity to help others overcome the challenges they face. Last week, I talked about involving God in our lives more consistently and not just in times of complete desperation, and going to church is a great way to allow for God to be a part of our lives on a regular basis.
Ryan Comer can be reached at email@example.com.