“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”” (Genesis 28:15-17 ESV)
Entering into God’s house is a great gift. It is in this place that God meets man, forgives our sins, draws us into His loving embrace, and brings us into communion with Him and with all of heaven and earth. Coming into God’s house is a big deal. It is the biggest deal and the most significant thing that any of us do in our lives.
Why is it, then, that we so often forget how amazing this place is? Here are a few of the things that I see as a pastor which give me pause, and which I would urge you to consider and reflect upon:
1. Chatting before and during the service. There is a sense where it is good that we are comfortable with one another, and we want to know what is happening in other people’s lives. At the same time, though, this can be distracting from the purpose of the divine service. Do we take time to pray when we come into church? Have we reflected upon our sins before confession and absolution? Are we prepared to receive Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper?
2. Children in the divine service. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Many congregations seek to usher their children away from God’s house, in the fear that they might make a peep of noise. The implication is that church is not for them. The flip side is when children are testing their lungs to such a level that it becomes difficult for the other members of the congregation to focus on God’s saving gifts in the divine service. How does one walk this line? I think that the key is to put yourself in the other’s shoes. Parents, think of those around you. If your children are being disruptive to where other parishioners can’t hear the readings or the sermon, consider going to the parish hall until they settle down. Fellow parishioners, think of the parents. What will it teach their children if as soon as they make a peep their parents take them out? Are we encouraging bad behavior in our children? This is a fine line, and can easily cause offense. But we are a family, and families work together.
3. What we wear reflects that is important to us. Jesus sinners doth receive. God does not judge us on the basis of how we dress going to church. At the same time, we can take advantage of God’s mercy and use it as an excuse for laziness and sloth. Most people would never go to a fancy, expensive restaurant wearing simply a t-shirt and cut-off jeans. Yet in God’s house it is easy to allow our sense of family to create a super-casualness that may give the wrong impression. What happens in God’s house is important. It’s the most important thing in your life. What we wear reflects how important we believe something is.
These are just a few summer thoughts on worship and God’s house. Please take them in the spirit of care in which they are intended. We’ll see you in Church!