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Pastor's Notes from The Scribe (June/July 2016)

posted Jun 4, 2016, 5:46 AM by Russell D. Hampton

Summer is upon us.  Children and youth (and teachers!) get their much needed breaks from school.  Individuals and families take week-long or weekend vacations, camping trips, or adventures.  Some people enjoy a laid back, maybe even slow-paced time period.  And the Church normally experiences a decline in worship attendance and activity. 

So, I feel it is important to re-visit a question I have asked over the past few years (especially as we head into the season of lower worship attendance and church activity): Why is gathering for worship (or “going to church”) important – to you and for others?  In the past I have heard people tell me they can commune with God in nature.  Or, they need only to find a secluded place for prayer and meditation with God.  Yes, there are times we need individual time with God; nature and secluded places offer great opportunities of time with God.  Even Jesus went alone to pray (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:22-23; Luke 5:15-16).  But the New Testament also witnesses to times when Jesus’ followers came together “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)  The word “worship” may not be in this passage, but I think we can conclude it was implied as a typical activity for those who followed Christ. 

Why is gathering together for worship important? 

1.      The community of faith is a gathered community.  We have been baptized into the community of Christ.  That involves getting together to be in community with God and with one another.  Sure, we can gather as a community other times – for Bible Study, prayer groups, meals, social events, etc.  But the opportunity we have to gather together frequently is worship.  Plus, when we worship, we gather around the Word and Sacrament. The Lutheran Confessions tell us that the Church is “the gathering of the saints where the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”  Which leads me to my next two points…    

2.      The community of faith is the gathered community where we hear the Word of God proclaimed to us!  We hear this Word (the saving acts of God in Christ Jesus) proclaimed when the Scriptures are read, when the sermon is preached, when we lift up our voices in song, when we offer our prayers to God, when we share the Peace of Christ, and more.  When we attend worship we experience the many means God’s Word is proclaimed to us.  Hearing this proclamation is important because it revitalizes us each week to leave the place of our worship and make disciples of all people.  In the gathering of worship we are promised that God’s Spirit will be among us in our work and reminded that Christ’s presence in our lives. 

3.      The community of faith is a gathering where we receive the visible forms of God’s grace: Holy Baptism and Communion.  When we attend worship, we see the baptismal font.  The font reminds us of our baptism and the promises that come with our baptism: we are forgiven of our sins, we are united to Christ, and we are made part of the Church.  When we attend worship, we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  When we hear the words “this is my body given for you… this is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins” we are reminded that Christ went to the cross to free us from the powers of sin, death, and the devil.  It is within worship we receive these visible assurances that God in Christ loves us, lifts us to new life, and promises to save us. 

God in Christ calls us to be in community with one another.  Joining in worship of the great works God has done through Jesus Christ brings us together to experience that community and the promises found within the gathering.  Gathering for worship nourishes us with the Word and Sacrament so we can scatter and sow the seed of the kingdom. 

In Christ,

Pastor Maureen