Do I Need to…. go to church, pray, confess my sins…etc
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 Many of them believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day. 42 They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers. 43 Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44 All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45 They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
Acts 2:41-47 (TEV)
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (1)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever. (2)
Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my readers’ devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth hath said, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us (3)
The question is asked less of me now than in was in the 80’s or 90’s, and I am not sure whether that is a good thing or as I fear a bad thing.
In the 90’s I heard it more from college students and young couples, perhaps because their children asked it, “do I have to go church?”, “why do I havvvveee to gooo to chhhhhurch?” Or the “can’t I just worship God in the forest, or at the beach, or playing my music?”
Somewhere along the line I think the answer was changed from the real “why” to simply, “you have to”, and as we often do, we find excuses. The same of course goes for prayer, or for confessing our sins, or reading the scriptures. Even for pastors. Ask yours what he was reading this week, that wasn’t done for preparing for church or a Bible Study. (If you don’t want to embarrass them I have a friend named Rich that would be more than willing to!
Some say that we go to church/pray/commune/confess for God’s sake – that we go to serve. That is a crappy reason! It’s been seen as a crappy answer for a long time! It has a partner in crime, the reason that says we go to be served! (since it is all about us you know!) I would use a more guttural term for that one.
We don’t go to church so that someone “gets something” or is benefitted, Neither do we pray or study the scripture for its benefit. When we use them, we set ourselves up to fail, for often, if we get anything out of church, it is subtle, and takes a while to process and see the effects of going? We see ourselves struggling with the same thing, fighting the same anxieties. And who really believes that God is somehow “helped” by our presence, as if church wouldn’t be as glorious without our presence?
So then why do we go?
If it’s not because we HAVE to?
If it’s not because we benefit?
If it doesn’t benefit God?
It is because church, like prayer and communion is about the encounter. Any benefit is secondary to that encounter. God and His people, those being reconciled and healed, coming together as one body. It is that encounter that is life, it is, in every sense, a foretaste of our eternal life WITH God, and the angels, archangels, and all the community of heaven. That’s why the early church met, not just on Sunday and for a special few on Wednesday nights, but daily in the temple. They prayed together, they ate together, the worshiped and celebrated the Eucharist, and in doing so, encountered God and they encountered His people, even as they were being added daily….
That is why the sermon isn’t the best point, the gathering that begins in the passing of the peace, and flows through communion is. That is where we come face to face with the God who draws us to Himself. Note, I said draws US. Not the individual, not you and I. He draws US, and gives us a serenity that allows us to drop everything as we encounter God, and His people.
It is this encounter we need, it is this moment that transcends everything, God, and man, this is the life.
This is why… this encounter… this being with God.
This is what it means to be His church, the one’s whom the Father calls, by lifting Christ high, and drawing us to Him.
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. The Small Catechism -: Article III
(3) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Posted on June 18, 2016, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged apostolate, Augustine, Church, encountering God, grace, Luther, Mystery, prayer, spiritual discipline, The Holy Spirit. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.