There was a day when we went to church because our parents forced us to do so. We dressed up, stood up, sat down, endured the long prayers and sermon, and couldn’t wait for the service to be over in order that we might head to the Sunday buffet and enjoy watching our afternoon football games.
Then, as we went through some of our more legalistic days, we learned to attend the worship of God in order that he might not spank us. Because it was important to the Lord that we attend, and because we desperately wanted him to bless us in our endeavors throughout the following week, we dutifully went to the Lord’s house for Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, choir practice, youth group, Sunday evening worship, and the midweek prayer meeting. In our eyes, because God was keeping attendance records, and we were sure that he blessed us based upon our religious attendance, we were determined to be there every time the church doors were opened.
Later in life, we went to church because we had children and wanted them to develop their own good habits. In our own hearts, we felt we could do without our weekly spiritual feeding, but our children, well that was another story.
Many attended out of habit. We had done it for so long; what else were we supposed to do?
Then there were days when we went simply because we had a Sunday duty to perform. Somehow, our names were put on another ministry list, and we had to pass out bulletins, make coffee, or teach a class.
We went for reasons of reputation and image. We knew certain people were watching and talking. Therefore we went because it was important for us to make friends and influence people.
And then came the day when none of these things mattered as much anymore. We were tired of the tradition. We were tired of the show. It was easier not to go. It was more fun to sleep in, hit the links, or eat links at Waffle House.
Oh friends, what have we been thinking and doing? Where has been our heads and hearts? We have been so cold for so long. We have forgotten the awesome privilege of festive worship.
Please hear the inspired Psalmist as he encourages us to ascend the hill of the Lord, and to do so in the “proper” manner:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100)
Going to worship is to be a joyful experience. So joyful is it to be, that we are expected to make glad and loud noises. And why?
We are going to the place where we will freshly encounter God.
We will take one short but serious look at our sins, but then we will look again and again at our Savior.
In his scriptures, we will hear of his faithful love for us, and then with reckless and reverential abandon, we will tell him and others of our love for him.
Today, the church body will pray, and God will answer. Sins will be forgiven, hearts will be changed, requests will be heard, and God will always respond in the most perfect manner. As a result of our joint supplication, burdens will be removed from our backs, or men will find their backs strengthened to handle God’s ordained burdens.
At worship, the closest of friendships will be initiated or developed. There we will be able to engage in the sweetest of fellowship. Oh, it is not a perfect family, but the place of grace is a fantastic place for people to know and be known, to love and be loved. Covenantal fellowship is better than anything the world has to offer.
In this morning’s service, some will be washed as eager and expectant parents call upon the Holy Spirit to come and save their children. Others will be washed as they proclaim what Christ has recently done in their own lives. We don’t want to miss this Christ-initiated rite. It will bring tears to our eyes.
Then we will partake of the sacred meal with the lover of our souls. Sweet meditation will take place around the bread and the wine today.
And yet again, the divine book will be opened, and fresh manna will be presented. God’s law will inform us, slay us, send us to Christ, and then encourage us to walk in the only holy and happy way.
Friends, the Father is our friend and he comes near. He looks over the fence longing for all his prodigals to come home, to come in to the party, to be cleansed, to be fed, and to be freshly robed.
The Son is sitting on his throne while heavenly elders are bowing and presenting their crowns; he calls you to draw near.
The Spirit is especially present in the congregated community. He is ready to fall fresh again.
Oh friends, it is the Lord’s Day. It is his day, a holiday, and the time of encouraging celebration is almost at hand. Let’s go together and glorify and enjoy our Great God, and let’s make some noise as we go. The day and time has come to enter the house of mirth and gladness.