Third Sunday in Epiphany
 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"  And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself.' What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well."  And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.  But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,  and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.  And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:16-30 (ESV)
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, as was his custom he went to the Synagogue.
Gathering together, synagogue, roughly the same meaning as the word Ecclesia, which somehow became church in the English language. For Jesus anyway coming to church was a custom, a habit. It wasn’t something he thought about, he just did it. There wasn’t much question to it. Jesus just went. And as much as I cringe at WWJD faith, I think in this He set an example for His disciples, for you and I. Of anyone in the world, Jesus being sinless, had the least reason to go to church, but He did. It was His custom. It might ought be our custom too.
Why did Jesus go? He went to hear the word of His Father, to learn as He was growing up. And learn He did. He was a man, and when He left the temple at twelve He grew in wisdom and stature. He learned the faith by going to church, He grew in the faith, by going to church. He grew by being with others, listening to others, bearing with others, suffering with others, rejoicing with others.
That is the way it is with the faith. We confess faith in the communion of saints. Our Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12) maybe breaks this out in the greatest illustration of us all coming together as members of one body. Members that function better together, than separately. We all have our place in this church, young and old, new members and seasoned members. Church is about community. Should be anyway, it is one reason communion is at the center of the liturgy which we in large part borrowed from the synagogue worship that Jesus enjoyed growing up.
No there are a thousand and one excuses for not coming to church. Some of them are somewhat valid I suppose. Though I begin to have second thoughts about that when the work schedule can’t be switched up at least a couple times a month to allow someone to go to church. I know people have an obligation to feed their children, and we need someone protecting and serving even when we are at worship. But I think it is a real good habit to get into that we go to church on Sunday.
As a pastor I look forward to Sunday Mornings, because that is the time that I get to interact with most of you. It is also the time that you guys get to check in with one another. And that is what community is about. We grow in the faith in so many ways. Intellectually you may be able to grow immensely at home in your closet reading. I suggest that. Read the Bible at home by all means. But don’t use the fact that you can do that as a half hearted excuse for missing church more often than you make it. For one it is doubtful you do that if you are missing church. But there is more here. Intellectual growth is but one aspect of the faith. The rest you really learn in a community, as you get to know other members of the congregation carry their burdens for them as they carry yours for you in prayer, developing friendships, and perhaps learning to forgive and overlook the character flaws of others, as they do the same for you. Or maybe it is taking the reprovement someone has to offer, even as you take the encouragement.
The sermon might not always be pleasant to hear. It isn’t about that. It isn’t about tickling ears. I mean as a pastor I almost can’t comprehend what Jesus did in Nazareth. When all the people are speaking well of Him and flattering Him, He turns on them. Gives them harsh words of reprovement. So much so they want to kill Him. Some might say that is the sign of an unsuccessful sermon, but it said what needed to be said, and that isn’t always pleasant, nor does it invite flattery, which is always my temptation. To invite flattery. Who doesn’t want to hear from others that they have done a good job? But neither would Jesus be manipulated to do the bidding of a bunch of heathen. They didn’t believe in Him. These people wanted Jesus to perform like a little monkey for them. He wouldn’t do it. He had integrity. And that is what we need, integrity. The world would let it erode. But a church that doesn’t have integrity is not worth the time of day. No one wants to go to church to hear the same mindless platitudes the world puts out. I don’t anyway. I come to hear the word of God, that is what Jesus went for too.
We can’t do it on our own people. We can’t. Our integrity is lost, compromised when we aren’t together as one, of one mind and one judgment, one Spirit. But we can’t manufacture that integrity either. Yet together, those of us baptized into Christ, grow together through the work of the Spirit. We grow as one even as we are one.