The author of the Hebrews text lays it out quite succinctly (Heb. 10. 23-25). It is our joint responsibility if we are "firm and unswerving in our faith" but we are so unaware of each other that this becomes an impossibility. The times have changed from when these words were written but if the author was having trouble then with people unable to come to worship then it does not bode well for us, unless we take these words seriously (Heb 10.24-25). We are all aware of the concerted programmes such as "Back to Church Sunday" or "bring a Friend to Church Sunday", which are there to assist faith groups to bring recalcitrant and ex-church goers as well as a few non-churched into pews (hardly ever to be seen again). Is this the reality that Christ dreams of outside the Temple (Mk 13.1-11)? or is it something profounder, something more tangible in the hearts of those who follow God? Christ speaks of persecution, of destruction, of devastation in the presence of the Temple, is this perhaps what we see happening in these programmes to sustain our lowering viability? The destruction of our own faith, the persecution of what we stand for and thus our shame for bending away from it, and denying our journey.
Do we look to far in advance and not acknowledge our journey in faith?
The sins of the past have a habit of catching up to us especially when we align ourselves with a faith journey that is about justice, love and humility. These are goals which we find so hard to maintain for ourselves let alone the world around us. These are the virtues that are on display in the story of Hannah (1 Sam 1.4-20) which she proclaims in the inspiration for the more famous Magnificat. A song that we need to align ourselves to in all that we do so that when we have the courage and fortitude of our faith convictions we can bring others into God's light and love in such a manner that we can in all honesty of life and action praise God in the continuing and ongoing company of strangers. To bring the other closer to God through all that we espouse and hope in this is the goal and challenge of our life together. Yet it is not smooth sailing it is not filled with joy. If we just focus on Hannah for a little while longer we remember that she is the one that is bullied and has suffered. She is the one that is condemned for her faith in God's presence, even Eli has a problem, thinking it is drink not faith.
This soul wrenching journey is what it means to be baptised and each time we come to worship we need to affirm our faith in God. We need to remind ourselves each and every week as we come to the table of Christ's offering that it was offered for us and we are committing ourselves once more for our faith. We need to bring others with us on our journey to show Christ in our worship. This is not something that we wish to hear, we want to hear the beauty, the hope, the love but unless we are able to see that in the other there will be no stories. Unless we ourselves can see the hope of faith in the other, the love that shines out of the eyes of the stranger and the hope that is found in the despair of the disenfranchised we will not find those things for ourselves. God reverses all our expectations.