I grew up in Missouri, but lived in New York for 17 years before moving to Vermillion last September to serve as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church. I never would have guessed it, but 17 years was long enough to forget much of what I loved about the Midwest when I was growing up. Coming to Vermillion has renewed my appreciation for Midwest values like integrity, sincerity, and genuine friendliness. The funny thing is that I didn't really realize what I had missed until moving here and experiencing it again.
Though on a smaller scale, I'm guessing that some of you may have had a similar experience this past Sunday. Amidst all the treasure of what Easter Sunday represents, it is also a Sunday when many people get reacquainted with church after being away for some time. It's different with everyone. A few decidedly quit going to church because of some bad experience. More commonly, though, people quit going to church simply because other things get in the way. It really doesn't take very long to get into a routine that excludes church on Sundays and forget what you're missing.
I'm guessing you may have reconnected with what you've been missing when you returned to church last Sunday for Easter services. You felt a peace and satisfaction you haven't felt in awhile. That's because church is not just an optional Sunday activity for the religious who want to be "good." Church, as Jesus designed it, is a gathering of loved ones whose hearts have been touched by the heart of God and who long to draw nearer to Him. Through the prophet Jeremiah God promised, "You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart." The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that the essence of faith is being confident that God is real and that He "rewards those who diligently seek Him."
God doesn't keep a count of the number of times you attend church in order to measure your goodness. He simply wants you to know Him and the unfailing, unconditional love He has for you. He wants you to learn to love and trust Him. Jesus designed church for this purpose. Done right, church is a gathering in which there is freedom and encouragement to seek God and know Him for who He really is. Did you hear from God this past Sunday? If so, then you can know that what He wants is what is best for you. He wants you to seek and find Him and discover that He who created you also has a meaningful plan for your life. This would be a great time to reconnect with God and rediscover what you've been missing. I hope to see you on your way to church this Sunday!