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Vol. 80 - No. 6
June 2009

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

Why We Go to Church

I have to be in church every week. It’s my job. A Method actor, seeking to probe deeply into the character he was playing, once asked film director Alfred Hitchcock: "What’s my motivation in this scene?" And Hitchcock replied dryly: "Your paycheck." And, in a way, the same is true for us clergy and worship: we’re motivated to be in church every week because that’s how we make a living.

However, I didn’t always wear this funny white collar, and I didn’t always draw a paycheck for being in God’s house. And yet...from the time I became a believer at the age of 19, I found myself in worship every week, even though I didn’t have to be there. It was a pretty rare Sunday that I missed. (I hope that doesn’t sound boastful–as Walter Brennan used to say, "No brag, just fact"). Nobody paid me, but I was still motivated to be in the house of the Lord. Thinking back to those days, I wanted to list some factors that move us to come to church on Sunday (or Saturday, or, in the summertime, Thursday).

It’s where God wants us to be. Scripture says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25 ). The Lord wants us to gather with His people. He looks deep within us and knows our needs–and He knows that we need to gather with other believers to receive His blessing. That’s why He tells us to come together for worship.

We get things in the church we can’t get elsewhere. It’s true that we can encounter God in just about everything–a beautiful sunrise, a walk in the woods, a baby’s laugh, a moving piece of music. When my dogs lick my nose, when I enjoy a good meal with family or friends, when I watch a well-played baseball game...there’s a bit of God’s beauty in all these things. But in church, I encounter God in a personal way, in the Word and the Sacraments. He speaks to me through the Gospel message. He touches me in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He tells me that Jesus Christ loves me and died for me; He assures me that my sins are forgiven; He assures me that I am secure in His love. This is something no sunrise, no dog, no forest can give me. In church, we are touched by things that we absolutely cannot get anywhere else.

"If you want Kentucky Fried Chicken, you have to visit me," the late Colonel Sanders used to say in his TV commercials. And if we want the assurance of God’s love, the assurance of God’s peace, we need to come to the Word and the Sacraments. (They’re so important that, if you become sick or homebound, we’ll bring them to you!)

We give something back to God for all that He’s given to us. In saying this, I’m not just talking about the offering (although that’s always appreciated). I’m also talking about time and attention. When we worship, we’re giving God some of our time–which is one of the most precious assets we have. We’re making the statement: "God, you’re so important to me that I want to give you something that is very important to me–a piece of my time." We’re also giving God our attention–we’re going to take this time and focus on Him. He deserves this time and attention–because He has given me everything I have. Above all, He’s given me Jesus.

Time spent in church changes our perspective on life. Living out in the world, it’s easy to become bitter, angry, depressed, and negative. The world can be a tough place, and it takes it’s toll on our attitudes and feelings. Spending some time in God’s house can remedy that. In Psalm 73, the Psalmist is very angry and bitter because the wicked seem to prosper and the righteous are oppressed. These feeling weigh heavy upon him: "When I tried to understand all this, it was very oppressive to me." (Psalm 73:16). But then–he went to church (to the Temple, actually): "I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny." (Psalm 73:17). Going into God’s house changed everything for the Psalmist–it reminded him that God is in control, and that God will cause everything to turn out right. The feeling of bitterness was lifted.

Study after study has shown that people who worship regularly are happier and healthier than the general population. That is no accident. Getting a weekly "attitude adjustment" is a real blessing.

I sometimes think of us as cameras that need to be periodically re-focused. Our proper focus in on God–but during the week, we get knocked around a bit, and our lives go out of focus. So we come to church to get re-focused.

We need to be with other believers. "It is not good for the man to be alone," God proclaimed after creating Adam (Genesis 2:18). God has created us for fellowship with other people. Being a Christian means being connected with everyone else who belongs to Christ. If Christianity were a sport in the Olympics, it would be a team sport, not an individual competition. (This connection with others is so important that, if you become sick or incapacitated, we will, as I noted before, visit you at home). We need the encouragement of others. The "Cheers" theme song declared, "You wanna go where everybody knows your name." And that’s what the church is like–a place where we belong, a place where we are connected with other people.

"I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’" (Psalm 122:1). For many, many reasons, God’s House is the place to be!

God loves you and so do I!

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