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Putting first things first
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It’s easy to get out of the habit of attending church.

A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, arguing that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. “I’ve gone for 30 years now,” he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

Well, that letter started an avalanche of responses and a genuine controversy erupted in the “letters to the editor” column. The back-and-forth went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

“I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote, “Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship. But we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.” (10:25)

The church is a place we come to get encouragement for the valleys of life. We all need such encouragement. Trials and hardships sometimes never seem to end. We all run into various kinds of challenges: health problems, financial issues, relationship difficulties. In church, we have an opportunity to encourage one another; that’s part of what church is about.

Yet, not only do we miss out on fellowship when we visit St. Mattress on Sunday morning, we also miss out on spiritual growth. I have often heard the remark, “The service you miss is the service you need.” Church is where you will be inspired to live a life that is greater than you’ve been living, to synchronize your life with Jesus and His purpose and plan for you. You will come to understand why you’re here on this earth: to serve, to give, to love, to forgive and be forgiven.

C.S. Lewis wisely wrote, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

If our mentality is such that we’re focused on the expectation of what the church can offer, when the church fails to meet our own personal desires we’re going to walk away like we would from supporting a losing sports team and look for another team - only to be disappointed by that team.

However, when our lives are lived with God being the center (put first), with everything else coming from and through Him, we naturally receive His blessings. When our focus is on glorifying God and learning how we can draw more closely to Him, everything else (all second things) just seem to fall into place.

The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.