Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
What do we expect to get out of worship?
October 2, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m not a good person.
I’ll freely admit that I’ve got a long way to go to become the person that I should be. And, unfortunately, my wife and kids get the brunt of it.
For example, my kids, like any of you who have kids know, will often come to me and ask for something. Little things. Maybe they want a few bucks to get into a ballgame. Maybe they would like a new pair of shoes. Maybe they want a ride to a friend’s house. Maybe they just want to open the refrigerator and actually find food there. I don’t know, but whenever they come to me and ask me for something, I can’t help put on a layer of guilt for coming to me and I respond to their request every single time with the very same line: What’s in it for me?
What’s in it for me? As what was written in our worship theme paragraph this morning, as people fall away from the church and identify more with the “nones;” as in when asked what their religious affiliation is, they reply, “none,” this could very well be the very same question that they are asking from wherever they are at outside of the church. If I come back into the church, what’s in it for me?
What’s in it for me? From a perspective of being in attendance at Sunday morning worship, I think that it’s fair to say that we give up a lot to be here and it’s a very fair question to ask. Maybe it’s physical or financial comfort that a person is giving up to be here this morning. Maybe it’s time that could be spent with family or friends or in the woods or on the lake or the golf course. Maybe it’s sleep that a person is giving up. A mother called her son on Sunday morning to make sure he got out of bed and was ready for Church.
“I’m not going,” he replied. “Yes you are going, so get out of that bed!” his mother demanded. “Give me ONE good reason why I should go,” said her son. “I’ll give you THREE good reasons … One, I’m your mother, and I say you’re going. Two, you’re 40 years old, so you’re old enough to know better … and three, you’re the Pastor, so you need to be there.”
There’s no doubt that the fifteen percent of our general population that identify as Christian who are attending worship this morning are giving something up to be inside that place of worship. But I think we have the opportunity this morning to be reminded that worship is not so much about what we’re giving up, but that it’s more about what the other 85 percent are missing.
The church in worship is a gathering that is on the receiving end of God’s grace. Now, of course, we all receive God’s good graces wherever we are at, at all times, not just for one hour inside a big building with a cross on it. But as I stated last week, it is here that we receive forgiveness of sins. It is here that we receive the life-giving and life-sustaining meal of Holy Communion. It is here that we not only hear the Word and the Word preached, but are invited to enter into God’s ongoing story that the living Word becomes.
But that’s not it. The church in worship offers so much more to us. I shared with you how I always throw that line out to my kids when they ask for something, “What’s in it for me?” Well, they have a standard response as well, and that standard response is, “love and affection.”
Love and affection. My friends, that is what we gain as the church in worship. When we enter into this sacred space, we bring baggage with us. We bring a lot of baggage with us. We come into this place having complained about those with whom we don’t agree. We come into this place whiney and pouting because we didn’t get our own way. We come into this place feeling self-righteous because we’re here and others who talk and act like they are holier than thou aren’t. We come into this place mad at the world and questioning God or we come into this place content, glad that things are going well for us and glad that those who don’t have it so well are keeping it to themselves. Every one of us enter into this sanctuary this morning as broken people, desiring wholeness and to be reminded that we are worth more to God than to be simple pawns being played at this time and place in the history of this spacious home that we call earth.
This is a lot of what we bring into this worship setting this morning, and God’s response to us? Love and affection. We come here and are reminded that God loves us when some of our brothers and sisters are struggling to do so.
We come into this sanctuary and are shown affection and lifted up in prayer and are affirmed and strengthened by people alike who are close to us, those whom we barely know, and all those in between. The church in worship provides a unique opportunity for us to be strengthened not by those whom we see as wholesome and righteous, but those whom are just like we are: weak, broken, desperate, and guilty. In worship we are reminded that God loves the sinner, and, in turn, the sinner first being loved by God, loves the other sinner.
Does that mean that when we leave here in a few minutes that we’re all going to leave here with a smile on our face and no cares in the world? No, it doesn’t. There’s a really good chance that the anxieties that you bring in here this morning will resurface again. I doubt anyone will be cured of any infirmities or diseases during this hour here this morning. Nobody is going to win the lottery or have their credit card balance wiped out while you are present here.
I wish I could tell you that these things would, or even could happen, for that matter, but they won’t. But let me quickly remind you what a sanctuary is: a sanctuary is a place of safety from outside influences. When we are here we are shielded from whatever threatens us outside of these four walls. And so when we keep that in mind, what we do take away from here is the same peace that accompanies us when we do experience Jesus Christ in the Word and Sacraments here. For there is peace here, and there is peace in the assurance that Christ walks with you outside of here, and, yet, you have a safe place to come back to.
So what’s in it for me? Love and affection, my friends, peace and understanding. May you live in the joy and assurance of Jesus Christ that you experience here when you leave here this day; in your home, in your work, in your school, in your walk with Christ, wherever it leads you. There’s nothing more that you could ask forandnothinglessthanyouwillreceive. Amen.