Where has devotion gone? What happens if you cut Sunday church?

All Saints Anglican Church
All Saints’ Anglican Church, Rome (my photo)

I posted recently some thoughts inspired by Franciscan devotional art, where I observed that in these images the saint, the focus of the viewer’s gaze, was focussed on Christ, thus drawing us back to the reality that all Christians need to keep in our minds: Where is Jesus? Where is our focus in life?

In a follow-up to this post, I discussed three central facets of evangelical devotion that so many of us trot out time and again and so rarely barely even do let alone do well — go to church weekly, read the Bible daily, and pray daily. This was followed up by a post about ways to weave Christ the Saviour into daily life without adding time to the routine.

These latter two posts were inspired by a comment by a friend on Facebook regarding the Franciscan post that our lives are so very different now than they used to be. Given that I’ve been ever-so-fond of Franciscans since the long-gone days of regular acquaintance with this friend, I imagine that it is the question of focussing life on Christ that has changed on my friend’s part.

Not being brave enough to ask where, when, and how this friend’s focus went away from Christ the Saviour of the human race, I just started thinking about ways we can cultivate this focus in our own lives. And I also wondered what sorts of omissions start the cracks in our daily routine that grow into fissures such that ‘real life’ — marriage, kids, work, household, money, neighbours, civic duty, shopping, family, garden — crowds out our devotion to the Incarnate God Who made Himself manifest to us in spectacular fashion 2000 years ago and is readily available to us anywhere, whether digging in a garden, washing a squirmy child, or kneeling before a crucifix.

And when I think about these concerns, my thoughts drift outward to other friends, former bulwarks of youth ministry or camp ministry or high school Christian groups or uni Christian groups, some of whom are not church attenders, see no relevance in the Trinity, no longer read Scripture regularly, find it more engaging to question everything than to rest comfortable in anything, list their religion on Facebook (if at all) as agnostic or atheist — or other friends who seem to be orthodox in every way save, say, shacking up, or conservatives who have taken a liberal stance on hot-button issues in today’s culture, and on and on and on.

My father, and Anglican priest, said that some people (not all, mind you) move these directions — away from Christ entirely or simply into liberal beliefs and lifestyles — because of failing to attend to times of personal devotion. These times can be hard to maintain. I go through spells both of forgetting as well as not ‘enjoying’ it one bit if I do get around to it.

This blog is partly here to help us rediscover ancient/mediaeval/less popular paths that God can use to revitalise our devotional lives — if anyone cares to read or take heed.

Alongside these daily times of devotion to God which are to be guarded no matter how dry they may be at times, there is Sunday.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.

Where you go to a church or house church and sit with a bunch of phonies who sing bad music and do the same darn thing over and over again and to whom you never reveal your deepest doubts and concerns because they’ll just laugh it off or chew you out. Where you listen to the same poor preacher week after week. Where the same good preacher succeeds in offending time and again. Where you drift from church to church seeking somewhere with the right orthodoxy, the right music, the right community, the right preaching for you. And it never fits.

I mean, church on Sunday can be intolerably awkward.

So you stop going. Stop engaging.

From there, a once burning coal is taken from the fire and starts cool, dims, and turns black and cold.

The Bible verse, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone,’ can be taken beyond its specific context to mean that it is not good for human persons to be alone. We thrive in community of one sort or another, to one degree or another, usually, even introverts like me.

Imagine cutting out Sunday morning/evening/whenever as well as prayer and Bible reading.

It strikes me that most of the time, such activity would be fatal for the spiritual life.

But these are just my own thoughts drawn from my own experience of church-going and the ups and downs of devotional life. Not sure if I’m brave enough to seek out the truth from my friends …

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