Life's reference points
Architects have long argued that humans need to live in rooms with corners. We would go mad in a round house with no corner to hide in. We need reference points to sustain us. Without points of contact with our environment we become remote and disjointed.
Sunday Church provides reference points. Those points are not substantial in themselves. In fact, we can do without them. We can survive without the framework of institutional religion. Yet, we don't easily survive without it. When we try to do so, we find ourselves adrift from the mainstream of life. We end up sectarian and introverted.
A group of theological students were involved in one of those endless discussions that are the stuff of college. In the group there was an African student training for ordination in the Anglican Church. At the height of the debate he made a profound statement. "There is just you and Jesus. There will be just you and Jesus." Of course, it was a terribly simplistic statement, but it did touch on the substance of life. In the end, there is just me and Jesus, just you and Jesus. As for everything else, they are but reference points. They are shapes upon which to hang the substance of our relationship with Jesus. Even marriage, the most substantial of experiences for a human being, is transitory. As the Master once said, in heaven there is neither giving nor taking in marriage.
So then, Sunday church rightly falls into a take it or leave it category. The reason we take it, rather than leave it, is that it provides those reference points so necessary for healthy human existence. Church provides a framework for our relationship with Jesus.
First, Church serves as a vehicle for worship - that is, worship in the sense of adoration. It provides the framework where a community of believers can gather to praise, thank, pray to and hear the Master. Particularly, it provides that most vital of reference points, the Lord's Supper. In the Communion service we feed on Christ in the sense of identifying with Christ's death and resurrection for us. In his death we die, in his rising we live. Since feeding is believing, we don't actually need to feed, but the bread and the wine serve as a reference point, "a visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."
So then, the substance is found in knowing Christ. All else serve as points of reference to frame that substance in our daily living.