Over the past few years I have wanted to experience a special feeling during church. I wanted the sermon to hit me. I wanted to feel true repentance during confession and even wanted the pastor to look directly at me during the absolution. I wanted the readings to be short and sweet and to the point. I wanted that “warm and fuzzy” feeling in every part of the divine service. I wanted to feel it as I walked into the sanctuary. I wanted to see the smiling faces and hear the friendly greetings. I wanted the guy in front of me to smell good. I wanted my kids to sit still. I wanted to sing the “Gloria in Excelsis” and not “This is the Feast”. I wanted to like all the hymns we were singing. The divine service hasn’t even started and I’m already making it all about me. I wanted it all. Instead of accepting the gifts of God with humility and repentance, I wanted to feel something. I received the gifts of God like a little child who only wants toys for his birthday but then then is disappointed when he ends up getting clothes or money for college. I don’t know what’s good for me. I tried to seek comfort in my feelings, instead of the Word of God and the Sacraments. It’s a continual battle against the enthusiast in me.
I first started realizing my rampant enthusiasm during communion. Some Sundays I would be very emotional while receiving the true body and blood of Christ. Then the next Sunday I’d be tending to my children or I wouldn’t “feel it” like I did the previous week. This caused me to question myself and worse yet, question the gift I was receiving during communion. The devil loves playing around with our emotions. Like a teenager who just got dumped our emotions take control. Our emotions try to dictate our thoughts and actions. Inserting emotions into what God has already perfectly given us in his Word and Sacraments are works of our sin and the devil. Our attempt to insert our emotions only downplays the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us all.
We need to try to leave our emotions at the door before entering church. In many situations our emotions are truly a gift of God. My opinion is that they do not belong in church and can interfere. Can the Word of God and the Sacraments make us emotional? Sure. However, we need to let the gifts of God that we receive in his Word & Sacraments and not our emotions lead and direct us in worship and faith. Feeling emotional during church has no bearing on what the church provides. The pure Word of God and the Sacraments are true without our added emotions. The Lutheran Confessions use the term “Enthusiast” to describe fanatics who believed that God spoke to them without the Word of God and would save them without the Sacraments. God does not speak to us through our emotions; nor is there any comfort in our emotions. The Word of God gives us comfort. Our Baptism into his life, death and resurrection provides true comfort and faith. Eating and drinking His true body and blood sustains and comforts us in our fight against our sin, the devil and the attacks of an overly emotional world.
Emotions during church are a hard thing to fight, so let us all focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. On that cross Jesus took our sinful, selfish emotions and actions replacing them with his perfect sinless substitute. Instead of showing our Father in heaven our emotions as a confession of our faith we confess Jesus Christ. In Christ, true love and emotion are shown to God. God has shown us the same true love and emotion back by sending his Son in the flesh to take away the sin of the world. In Jesus Christ, our emotions are shown as spotless and righteous. So go ahead, kill that “warm and fuzzy” feeling you so long to feel. God doesn’t want it or need it. He has everything he wants and needs in Jesus Christ.