And the conclusion to the refrain is, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
It is Sunday morning and memories always flood my soul on Sunday mornings. Decades ago I was a six year old boy, getting all “gussied up” for Sunday school and church. “Gussied up” back then meant I’d taken my weekly bath the afternoon before, and was donning my pressed and starched “Sunday-go-to-meetin’” clothes, that I’d polished my shoes, and I’d read my Sunday school lesson. Back then we would all climb aboard an old rusted jalopy… all eight of us…and we’d slowly travel down the dusty Arkansas road, connect up with the highway, and eventually convene at “the Lord’s house” with people of a similar stripe. There we would imbibe standard Baptist fare, the “death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ” presented with all the fire-and-brimstone fury our standard-edition Hazel Motes could muster up.
“Gussied up” today means a clean pair of Levi’s and a wrinkle-free shirt with a pair of tennis shoes. Though my church certainly accommodates more formal attire, casual is readily accepted. I have taken my daily shower. I will shortly get into my 2006 Toyota Scion and note that, though it is a simple automobile, it will promptly start, none of its windows are cracked, and the hood is not tied down with baling wire. I will leisurely drive into town on this beautiful morning, appreciating the barren, wintry terrain of this bright sunny morning. I will probably see two or three beautiful hawks perched on the power lines along the road, looking for their Sunday “dinner”. (“Lunch” back then was “dinner” and what is now “dinner” was always “supper”.)
As I park my car near the church, I will appreciate the lovely old buildings and as I walk down the street will admire the spring flowers that are budding. I will realize that they are budding prematurely due to our global-warming induced mild winter. At about that moment I will suddenly realize, “Oh, I’m going to church” and will recall the satisfaction that came from knowing I was doing the “right thing”, I was being a “good boy” and going to church, not “forsaking the assembling together as the manner of some is.” I will note that, yes, even today I have some of this same ego reward in “dutifully” going to church, recognizing that those feelings too are ok.
I will meet with people of a “similar stripe” and will enjoy the time together as we ponder over spiritual issues. I will take satisfaction in noting that no one will guilt me into “coming back tonight for BTC” or for Wednesday night Prayer Meeting. There will be no emotional high-pressure effort to get me to believe a certain way. The “saw dust trail” of conversion is not present as one is allowed to “work out his/her own salvation with (or without) fear trembling.”
I will feel the presence of God as I do even at this moment. And I will also note that the “presence of God” was present back then also but articulated in the experience of that particular cultural moment, refracted through the experiences of that little group of people who were approaching God as best they knew how. And can any of us ever do otherwise?
(Now here is a tune by Johnny Cash re the subject. But I promise I am not hung over as he was!)