Last night we had our first Advent midweek service, and I think that for the first time, the Bjornstad family outnumbered everyone else who came to worship.
It was bound to happen, of course. It isn’t that midweek services have ever been hugely attended. But the attendance drop at midweek services has certainly been greater than even the Sunday drop.
I certainly am happy to lead a service with one or two or three in attendance. I love these small gatherings, in fact. Especially the ones in the evenings. But I am just simply very sad that this congregation, and Christians everywhere in our land, seem to be struggling so much in their faith and life that they cannot see any value whatsoever to taking the time to worship in a special way during Advent, Lent – or more and more ANY season or ANY day.
The simple truth of scripture remains: If you love the Lord and know and love His ways – you will find a way to worship. Some way. Some time. Some how.
What does the Psalmist sing in Ps. 27:
One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
Of course there are no laws for attending the midweek or Sunday worship services. Everyone knows that a Christian doesn’t HAVE to attend worship. But they are misinformed as to the reason. People usually think that anything “churchy” is in fact unspiritual or, at the very least, a hindrance to being “spiritual,” that God is everywhere and we don’t have to go to church to pray to Him. Of course this is silliness and no more than a thinly veiled excuse for their unfaithfulness. If you would inquire as to the content and confession of the vast majority of “Christians” who do not attend worship regularly, you would find that they actually have no idea about the Christian “god” who they say they “worship”. They literally are “worshiping” a figment of their imagination, an idol created in their own image. And of course we all know the bad end of this worship!
The actual reason we don’t “have” to worship is that Christ has fulfilled God’s requirements for us! However, just because Jesus has fulfilled the law for us does not negate the desire of the Lord that his people gather in the regular worship and praise of His name, hear His holy word, and experience a “holy communion” with the family of God. There is no doubt, for example, that heaven itself is nothing short of a joyful “congregational” worship. And what do we pray in the Lord’s prayer? Only (!) that God’s will in heaven be done here on earth. And when we read the Gospel accounts we see that Jesus himself joined in the synagogue worship on each Sabbath. Who is the fool who says that it was good for him but not for us?
This discussion could go on forever as there are many facets to the necessity and benefit of worship, but I feel that one very important aspect that is often missed in this whole discipline of worship attendance is the Christian witness it gives. I think often people feel that the only thing that matters is what they get out of worship. Sometimes the pastor’s sermon is great, other times it isn’t quite so (of course the Sacraments are always good). But true Christians are not as concerned about what they might get out of it (although this is nothing short of LIFE itself), but more about giving witness to Christ. Oh the blessing that you give to others (and even your pastor) when they see that Jesus really IS your first love – and not the bed, the TV, Facebook or even the almighty dollar if your boss asks if you want to take an overtime slot on Sunday. What a great witness to say to your boss “no thanks… I have better things to do than make time and a half. Sunday is the day that I worship my Lord and give Him the honor due His name.“
So dear friends in Christ, be encouraged in the Lord and in the worship of His Holy name! He is MOST worthy of your time and devotion. Perhaps you might ask yourself personally: ”What on this earth is keeping me from the true worship of the Lord?“ Whatever it is, repent of it! Cling to the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. Rise up in the new life of your Baptism. Take the time – any time that you can and even sometimes when you ”can’t“ – to worship Him and receive His blessing.
Jesus says that if we do not praise Him the stones will! What a pity that day will be when our lips fall silent of the praise of God.
So far I am still praising God. Join me, will you?
Lord come quickly! Amen!