I work every other Sunday, it’s one of the few things I dislike about my job. Back when I started 13 years ago I didn’t attend church and wasn’t even a member of a local congregation. Working on Sundays didn’t bother me, as long as I could get home in time for football. Fast forward in time to after I returned to regular attendance at church and things started to change. Working every other week became more difficult to handle. There were many different reasons for this change and my understanding of these reasons also changed. All of the reasons came back to the simple realization that God wants us in church. If we understand the reasons why we don’t want to go and why we should go then going to church becomes what God wants for His children- pure gift, not a chore.
The 3rd Commandment.
When do we sin against the 3rd Commandment?
We sin against the 3rd Commandment when we despise preaching and the Word of God.
The statement above is from the Small Catechism and seems pretty straight forward to me. Where do we hear the Word of God? Hopefully at your church you hear solid preaching, the Word of God and the sacraments administered rightly. Skip church and the 3rd commandment is broken. I have always understood church attendance in finger pointing way. “Get your butt out of bed and get to church.” People will commend you for good attendance and condemn you for bad attendance. Having children will up the ante even more. Not only does your own personal attendance matter to others but also the attendance of your children. My view of the 3rd commandment was a very simplistic – Go to Church!
Why we don’t want to go to church.
In our minds there are many good reasons to not go to church. Just think of all the things you could get done around the house on a Sunday morning. I know I could also use a few more hours of sleep on the weekend. It’s such a pain to get the kids up and out the door on time. It doesn’t take much to come up with excuses and for our old Adam, it’s old hat and he enjoys it. If you can’t come up with your own excuses then the devil has millions of ideas. He will stoke the fire of laziness and sinfulness that will turn you away from what God wants you to be doing on a Sunday. The world and even our family and friends will also aid in the temptation to skip church. Worship and learn about God in your fishing boat or in that song you heard on the radio. Heck, people even find images of Jesus on their toast. These are all great reasons in the minds of sinners who don’t know what’s good for them. At the core, our not wanting to go to church comes back to a breaking of the 1st commandment. We want to be God. We want to decide what is good for us. We don’t want to confess our sins or that we need God to save us. We certainly don’t want God telling us when, where and how we should worship Him. On the flip side, we can run the risk of holding our good attendance up as representation of how faithful we are which can easily be turned into self-righteousness.
Why we should go to church.
Like I mentioned above, I used to think of the 3rd commandment as being very demanding. God is over His people with a clipboard and putting checks next to our names. This is one of those times where we have to admit that the Law is good and we don’t know any better. But it wasn’t this Law that made me desire to be in the Lord’s house every Sunday. Only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the many gifts within the church did I realize the grace within the 3rd commandment. I would dare to say that people who think they can find God outside of church walls aren’t looking for what God wants but what they want. God wants us as His children. He wants us as His own and it’s only through His Son, His Word and His gifts that we are brought to faith. The creation of faith and a lifelong sustaining of faith are only achieved through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and the Sacraments. You can’t find those on a boat or listening to classical music by candlelight. We go to church because that’s what we need for faith. Our God is so gracious and merciful that He offers it up for us every Sunday at our local church.
To counteract my work schedule I have been able to start work very early on Sunday morning and get done in time for church. It makes for very sleepy Sunday afternoons but it also gives me an excuse to take a nap while watching golf. So why would I put myself through this? Why only get (at times) 3-5 hours of sleep?
God knows I am a broken sinner who can’t go it alone. God knows I need to confess my sins and hear the absolution. God knows I need to hear the Bible readings and sings the hymns. God knows I need to hear my pastor’s sermons as they convict me of my sin and forgive me with the Gospel of His Son. God knows I need Jesus. God delivers Jesus to me every Sunday. Through the Word of God, I receive Jesus. Through His holy body and blood, Jesus enters my mouth. All of the gifts that we receive at church sustain and strengthen our faith and point us back to the first gift we received in Holy Baptism. There we were washed clean of our sin and forever joined with Jesus and his redemption. We receive His Son as pure gift. I don’t earn it by getting up early for work and we certainly didn’t earn it when we were brought to the font for our baptism. Jesus earned it, for us. God, take me to church.