Take me to Church.

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?

Jesus.

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.


Comments

Take me to Church. — 16 Comments

  1. “We go to church because that’s what we need for faith.”

    Actually, faith is not that big of a deal. Jesus is the big deal.

    We go to church to get forgiven. As you state in your final paragraph, there are gifts there.

  2. We go to worship services because we love the Lord Jesus Christ
    and want to hear the Good News that He went to the cross to die for
    our sins. We love Him because He first loved us. One of the best
    motivations to attend the Divine Service is love for God with all
    of our heart, soul, and mind. As we receive His forgiveness
    in the Sacrament of Holy Communion we are refreshed and renewed to
    live our lives for our Lord.

  3. @Pastor Dave Likeness #2
    Dear Rev. Likeness: you wrote, “We love Him because He first loved us.” I know that is a quote straight from the Scriptures. But does it speak of a cause and effect relationship or a correlation? Every time I hear this verse in a sermon, the implication is that God’s love for us is somehow the cause for our loving Him. Usually we even hear the word “gratitude” in that connection, as in “and now, out of gratitude for what He has done for us, we will do His will.” That is, of course, nonsense. We could not love God, if God had not put the love for Him into our hearts when we were baptized. At the same time, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us. It is our new nature and the constant work of the Holy Spirit in His children that makes it possible for us to love Him. That is precisely what the Apostle says before he wrote about our loving Him. 1 John 4:13, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit….15, God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God, So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” Therefore, “because He has first loved us” is not the immediate cause for our loving Him. First He had to change us, and come to live in us and plant love in our hearts.
    So when you speak of love for God being the best motivation to attend Divine Service, the child of God should know that our Lord not only lived, suffered and died to make it possible for us to enter the Kingdom of God, but that He also does everything for us to keep us in His Kingdom. A great teacher, though not a Lutheran, put it this way, “Certainly we must never conceive ‘salvation’ in purely negative terms, as if it consisted only of our rescue from sin, guilt, wrath and death. We thank God that it is all these things. But it also includes the positive blessing of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, liberate and transform us.” (John R. W. Stott, Baptism and Fullness. The Work of the Holy Spirit today. Inter Varsity Press, P. 25, 26.)
    If we Lutherans would be as aware of the Kingdom of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the meaning of the Gospel as we are of the Law, there would be a great deal more joy in the Church. If we do not come to the Divine Service out of joy, as David sang, Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” it is good to come for many other reasons. But the meaning of the liturgy and the proclamation of the Gospel will not be the same if it is not received with joy.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. We may also go to church to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and likewise to be blessed by the fellowship of the saints.

    “[S]o we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Romans 12:5-6a

  5. We “go to church” to receive.

    We go to “church” because, as damned and rebellious sinners, the Divine Service is where God has assured us we will find and receive the Gifts of faith-in-Christ that we need and that He has promised only there to deliver.

    This is something layman Redman seems clearly to understand, which some of the pastors here seem less clear on; we come to receive, not to do. We find and receive “Christ for us” (do a word count for that phrase in the Confessions some time; it’s kinda prominent) through what God does for us in the Divine Service–pastors, don’t get in the way of that. What Luther says about our certainty of faith is just as true regarding our acquisition of faith and our salvation: “Man is certain passively, just as the Word of God is certain actively.” God does the doing. We receive. It is all a dead man can do. The most we “do” on a Sunday morning is mere response, and–in the scheme of what “goes down” on a Sunday morning–that is of least importance.

    Pr. Kirchner; Actually, faith is a big deal. But faith without the object of Christ-for-us is an empty delusion–sort of like celery for a starving man. Jesus without faith is just as deadly, as He can then be only judge. We are saved “through faith in Christ.” It is a package deal.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

  6. @Grendelssohn #8

    You said, “God does the doing. We receive. It is all a dead man can do.”

    But we are alive in Christ!

    But God, being rich in mercy … made us alive together with Christ. Eph. 2:4-5

    God made you alive with Christ. Col. 2:13

    But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10

    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17

    Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Psalm 100:2
    Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary…. Psalm 150:1

    How can what God requires of us and enables in us, to His glory and our great joy, be a “mere” thing?

  7. @Grendelssohn #8

    No, even without our faith Jesus is still Savior. That’s the big deal. Our faith does not make Jesus Savior. Faith talk is gift talk. Faith receives the gifts.

    You don’t ask someone if they have faith. Is it enough faith? Shall we crank up some more faith? That’s pietism.

    No, Jesus is the big deal. That’s why we go to Church. He has gifts for us there.

  8. @Pr. Don Kirchner #10

    Absolutely correct Pastor. It is so easy to make faith a good work. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it’s the way the English language sentences are constructed or the natural inclination humans have of wanting to work their way to heaven. I have often had to stop myself from thinking that I could conjure up ‘faith in the heart’. The Holy Spirit does it through the Word and Sacraments, only.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  9. a href=’/2015/10/take-me-to-church/comment-page-1/#comment-1091187′>@Pr. Don Kirchner #1

    Do you believe that faith can be strengthened and needs nourishment?

  10. @Diane #11

    Correct. The HS gives us faith through word and sacraments, which are distributed at church, which is what the author said initially. Pr. Kirchner seemed to imply that faith is not a big deal though, so I’m confused.

  11. @Dave #13

    Sasse states that the preferable blessing after the distribution is: “His body and blood strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Amen,” rather than “His body and blood strengthen and preserve you in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.”

    Focusing on faith takes your eyes off Jesus. Jesus is the big deal.

    The LCMS theme for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is, “It’s Still All about Jesus.”

  12. @Pr. Don Kirchner #14

    Is it “strengthen and preserve you in true faith” or “strengthen and preserve you in the true faith”?

    Whenever I have heard this version, it’s always been the second way. I do believe it’s biblical, saying that the body and blood of Christ strengthen and preserve His flock in “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude)

    I have actually never heard it framed in a more pietistic context, but I can definitely see where the danger arises.

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