Scripture: Joshua 24:15-18
Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.'
Then the people answered, 'Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.'
I recently spoke with a young mother interested in having her daughter baptized. She'd been raised in a Congregational church and hoped her daughter would one day get confirmed. But she wanted to be honest: they weren't likely to be regular church goers. "Weekends are for family," she explained. Maybe you've heard this, too, or said it: "Sundays are precious." "It's the only time we have together." "We want to savor this time while our children are young."
When did church stop being about family? "It didn't. It's all about family," we church-goers might insist. If that's true, then we have a PR problem, because increasingly, young families see church as an intrusion into family life, hours deducted from the really quality time they want to spend together. I wonder: What could we say about the power of practicing faith as a family, in the company of others? What stories can we tell about raising children within a wider faith community? How might we say, "As for me and my household, we go to church on Sunday," without sounding, well, holier-than-thou?
More importantly: What would those families find, if we did persuade them to show up for church? Do we really create enough space for families to explore faith together? How often do we worship, do Bible study, or ask our most pressing questions as households? Where do parents and kids get to share their doubts and insights with each other? Who helps them to navigate those conversations?
Joshua began his speech to the Israelites by listing all the highs and lows of their wilderness journey. "Remember? How God set you free from slavery? How you turned your back on God again and again?" Joshua kept that story alive, to be passed from generation to generation: a living, breathing story about a living, breathing God who keeps covenant, even when we don't.
I'm not saying that spotty attendance necessarily makes one a bad Christian. But I am saying this: As for me and my household, hanging out at church, with folks who are telling and learning from that same story about a living, loving God - that has made us a better family.
Teach us to be a church for all ages, so we can grow together - and maybe even learn from our kids! Amen.