What’s the best part about going to church?

Honored to offer a response to the question “What’s the best part about going to church?” in today’s “Voices of Faith” column in The Kansas City Star, Sat., July 30, 2016:

http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article92597557.html

“Going to church” has many “best parts,” whenever the parts are done with excellence.

Some churches have extraordinary music programs that lift yearning souls into heights of glorious celebration.

Some churches have exceptional preachers who astound listeners with their poetic capacities to command engagement about matters of ultimate importance.

In other churches the rarefied gifts of prayer are front and center.

In yet other churches, members and visitors alike are reminded of the empowering delight of living in a caring community and encountering afresh the holy promise: “Lo, I am with you always.…”

Church experiences afford participants the regular discipline of reverence as well as opportunities for usefulness through hands-on service.

In a fractured society distracted by hyper-individualism, there can be devastating isolation. Going to church provides an encounter with an extended family and helps people guard against the temptation of self-absorption.

Most people long for the blessings of solitude, but there is an even greater need for a sense of belonging. Going to church can provide you a group that knows your name, welcomes you with grace, comforts you in sadness, and celebrates your joys and successes.

Going to church, at its best, is an adventure that broadens your vision, heals your destructive habits, enhances your talents, expands your friendships, intensifies your jubilations, soothes your sorrows, and magnifies the amazing, abounding graces of God.

Going to church helps you go through the rest of the week — and eventually the rest of life — with purpose, fulfillment, and immutable joy.

Will following your faith make my life easier?

(Honored to offer a response to the question “Will following your faith make my life easier?” in the “Voices of Faith” column in The Kansas City Star, Sat., July 2, 2016, p. 2C.) http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article87105877.html

If “easier” means completely comfortable, without difficulty, continuously experiencing a laid-back existence, the answer is no.

If “easier” means deeply content, more purposeful, less anxious, the answer can certainly be yes.

When Jesus declared “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he wasn’t offering an easy-going gospel, but rather a reassurance about grace and overcoming perfectionism.

Authentic faith – according to every commendable religious tradition – is fraught with toil, tears, and breathtaking opportunities for transformation.

For example, forgiveness is in some instances exceedingly difficult, but, when realized, there is precious release and peaceableness.

For another example, fulfilling the greatest commandments bequeathed by Jesus – loving God, others, and oneself – is sometimes an excruciatingly hard challenge.  But no one I know has found a better manner by which to order their steps and live well.

The book of Hebrews daringly defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Living in such hope and abiding by such conviction are never easy tasks but definitely worth giving one’s life for.

Can following your faith lead to wisdom, stature, and favor with God and humanity? Undoubtedly.  But such fidelity may also entail painful confusion along the way.

Living out one’s faith is a worthy struggle that always includes good measures of holy agitation.

Any promise of guaranteed prosperity, luxury, and leisure for those following their faith is an unmitigated sham.

– Bob Hill

© 2016, Robert Lee Hill