What in the world does attending worship have to do with loving our neighbor and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Have you ever pondered that question? Do I go to church just for myself? I must admit that on one note I do, I know that I am a dirty rotten sinner and in worship Pastor pronounces absolution for my sins, ahhh, thank you, and gives me Christ's forgiveness in the Lord's Supper, double thank you, may I have more please.
But in reading Pastor Harrison's "Little Book on Joy" I was given much more to think about. In his chapter entitled "A Community of Joy" he recounts a story about football, a subject of which I know absolutely nothing, but the story is about how he made a mistake and his team was able to recover and win an important game. He uses this as an illustration about how we as members of a congregation are to not only forgive each others sins but to compensate for them and help the community keep going forward in Christ even when a member of the community stumbles and falls. Our job as Christians is to pick up our brother or sister and their cross and keep moving in Christ's mercy and grace, and their job is to pick up ours when we stumble and fall. We do not walk this road of faith alone, this isn't just me and Jesus, it's me and all my brothers and sisters in Christ and Jesus and all these neighbors that I have been plunked down in the middle of.
We do not attend worship just for ourselves, or just to receive the forgiveness of Christ, nor is it only the Pastor in the service whose job it is to speak Christ and His forgiveness. As I sing or speak "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy," I am not just begging Christ for His mercy for me and my loved ones but for all the members of His church who are in my hearing. When I confess my sins, I'm not just telling God or the Pastor that I need forgiveness but I am confessing to those in my hearing that I am a poor miserable sinner and need that forgiveness. When the Pastor pronounces absolution and I say "Amen" it is not just "yes, yes, do this for me" but "yes, yes, do this for the person in the pew behind me too."
In our worship we speak God's love, His forgiveness, His life and salvation to each other, and we speak it to our Pastor too. He needs to hear us say these Words of God for him as well. When we go to worship we are the receivers, as in God serves us with His mercy and grace, God Himself has no need of our praise or adoration but our neighbors, including our Pastor, needs to hear them, needs to know that we are there to pick up them and their cross too, to praise God with them, and that we stand as fellow sinners in need of forgiveness with them. As we leave worship we are to continue to serve them and serve with them all the neighbors that God has given us who do not attend worship and do not have this Gift spoken into their ears each week.
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