Today was great! We went to church this morning, and then went to Ben's parents house to see his family the rest of the day. It was filled with good food and fun games and conversations with family we hadn't seen in a while. Church was also wonderful. I especially loved a talk about the way we think of church attendance. It completely changed the way I thought of it.
I've been going to church ever since I was little; my family went together, sat together, and came home together. Sunday School was okay because I could sit with my friends and there was usually a really good teacher with a treat as incentive to participate. I was usually never bored with our classes. Sacrament Meeting however (the portion where the entire congregation sits together in one large room and listens to a speaker) was probably the most boring thing of my life growing up. No one really explained the purpose of it to me, and I always just thought it was another way for them to talk to us about the scriptures and what we should be doing, but in lecture form instead of classroom form. I remember one winter day it was especially cold and snowy and the power was out in the church building. All we did that day for church was the Sacrament (taking the bread and water) and then we went home. They cancelled the singing, the classes, the sermons...everything but the blessing and passing of the bread and water. I remember that it really stood out to me.
Today in church what the speaker (Betsy Armstrong, for anyone who knows her) pointed out was that we often come to church with the idea that we need to receive something, and that's not the worst way to look at it, but it's not the best either. The purpose of church - and especially the part where we take the sacrament - is to worship God; to give praise to Him and remember all that He has done for us. We are told we should think about Christ as they pass the sacrament around the room, but how often do we do that? Are we instead thinking about how much we have to do when we go home? Are we thinking about what a hypocrite that sister 3 rows in front of us is, because maybe we saw her on her not-so-best-behavior a few days earlier? Or maybe we're texting on our phones, or playing games on our other devices. Or how many times are we thinking about the lesson we have to give in Sunday School in an hour and we are skimming over our notes one last time?
When we do that, are we thinking about all that Christ has sacrificed for us? I struggle to think about it. Mostly because its painful to think of all the imperfect things I've done and think that He had to suffer because of my stupidity or insensitivity. Maybe its hard for me to think about because I try to avoid crying as much as I can. Any way you put it, I'm usually thinking about anything but what I should be thinking about when they pass the bread and water tray. Its sad, I know. The purpose of Betsy's talk was basically to help us imagine if the Savior Himself walked into our meeting, and to think about how the way we treat it would make Him feel. You see, we aren't supposed to go in order to be entertained, we are supposed to attend to worship Him. Would my actions make Him feel worshiped, loved, and appreciated?
When I think of all He has done for me, I get overwhelmed with emotion (maybe that's why I've previously avoided it). Every time I've said something rude, or thought something unkind, or done something selfish, He was there to take my punishment. In fact, He loves me (and you!) so much that He even took the punishment in advance, on the off-chance that I would accept His invitation to change and repent. He loves me so much that even though I fall down every day, He accepts and forgives me as soon as I get back up to try again. That is all that He asks of me, that I try my very best. So is it so hard to ask that I focus on Him for a small portion of one day during the week? And when you think about, focusing on the Savior is meant to help us identify ways we can avoid falling down, so it's actually for our benefit.
Maybe this doesn't touch you as much as it did me, but I really feel a need to re-focus on all the He has done for me, especially when I'm in church. I shouldn't go to church thinking "What can I get out of this" - although that isn't a bad thought to have when one goes to church. At least for me personally, I need to go with the thought in mind of "how can I use this time to best show the Savior my gratitude and love?" Maybe it's through serving someone else, or resolving to change a bad habit, or writing thoughts of Him in my study journal throughout the meeting. Either way, my view of the purpose of attending church on Sunday has changed.
I hope for anyone reading this that regardless of your religion, you will spend more time focusing on the Savior during your worship service. He loves you more than anyone else ever could, and He completely understands anything and everything that you have been through. He chose to walk every mile in your shoes, because He wants to be your best friend. Please spend the time that should be devoted to Him actually devoting yourself to Him.