The Divine Service (Intro-I)

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I am sure that many of you have been the recipient of this phrase, “You should go to church.” Perhaps many of you have even spoken these words yourselves. In my experience, it is often given lovingly, but taken judgmentally, as a condemnation or command. Interestingly enough, it is both: a loving encouragement and a command. The 3rd Commandment says, “You shall keep the day of rest holy.” By this command God would have all people regularly meditate on His holy Word and receive His holy things (the Sacraments) for their spiritual rest and peace.
If “going to church” was all that was meant, then this would be as simple as forming the habit of getting up on Sunday morning (or whenever the congregation meets) and sitting in the pew/chair. What is so difficult about that?
The answer is because it is not as easy as just “going to church.” There is much more involved. There is guilt. There is apathy. There is fear. There is disgust. There is anxiety. Why? Some of it may be related to the other people who attend, perhaps even the pastor. Some may be toward the “institution” or the congregation which has seemed to lose sight of its purpose or been scandalized. We would like to blame it on others.
But in reality, these are just the symptoms. The real problem runs far deeper. While these previously hypothesized occurrences may be handy excuses, the real problem lies in our own sin, our own guilt, our own apathy, fear, disgust, and/or anxiety toward God. “Going to church” means that you have to face these emotions, and it isn’t comfortable. Overcoming these feelings can be just as difficult for the seasoned church-goer as for the new guy. But why does God want you to go? Is His goal to make you feel bad (or worse)?
No, my fellow redeemed. It is so that these emotions may be brought to light for your sake, so that you can recognize them, realize what you deserve for them, and repent of them. He desires you to “go to church” so that through hearing God’s Word read and preached you can then recognize Jesus as your Savior, realize that His death paid the penalty for your sins, and that you may rejoice because of the forgiveness that God has declared upon you. This is how King David, the adulterer and murderer, could say, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).
I will not tell you “you should go to church.” Rather I would encourage you, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” I need it just as much as you.

Rev. Gullixson is the pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church at 162 Sneden Street. The Divine Service begins at 9:30 AM every Sunday. To speak with Pastor Gullixson, please call (760) 873-6589.