Saturday, September 14, 2013

What happens when need is replaced by something else...

At some point in time we stopped talking about the NEED to go to church, to receive the Sacrament, to witness God's mercy to those who do not know it, to bring your children up in the faith starting with baptism, and to steward God's gifts guided by faith...  We stopped talking about the NEED of the Christian to do these things we began trying to make the DOING of these things attractive.  When we did this we automatically made it appear that asking them to worship on Sunday morning, to receive the Sacrament of the Altar regularly (weekly at minimum), to raise your children in the faith, to witness the Gospel in word and action, and to faithfully steward God's gifts was a burden.  When we stopped appealing to the fact that these things are the right things to do, we began trying to make these things appealing, winsome, and rewarding to those who did them.

We NEED to be in Church.  Worship is not an optional extra but the basic and essential part of the self-discipline of Christian life.  It matters not whether worship is exciting, fun, rewarding, etc...  Worship is needed.  I need it.  I need to hear the voice of the Pastor absolving me.  I need the counsel of God's Word preached to me (the full counsel of Law and Gospel).  I need to commune, to eat the Body of Christ and to drink His blood.  I need the koinonia of the Lord's house, people, and table.  This has nothing to do with pleasing the Pastor or bolstering weak statistics or any personal self-serving desire or want.  It has everything to do with NEED.  I must have it.  Or.... I will die.  Christ's life will wither in me until I am a shell of a person, empty of life, of forgiveness, of hope, and of grace.

When I was a child, my mother called us to the table to eat.  It was no invitation.  It was a command.  It was not to please her but for my own sake.  I could not be left to my own devices as to whether or not I wanted to, had something better to do, or would grab something on my own later.  I had to be there.  Jesus is not some passive character who waits for us to awaken to who He is and what He brings.  He calls us.  He sends forth His Spirit through His Word.  He seeks us out to bring us together with those who also share His name by baptism and who believe in Him.  He draws us to Himself -- not for Him or His vanity or His pleasure -- but because we need Him.  He gives us what we need or we will DIE!

I am sick and tired of trying to convince people it is worth it to them to come, trying to impress them with what could happen if they did, or trying to make it so special they will want to come.  If it is not enough that Christ is here with His gifts that we NEED or we will DIE, what can I do or say that would be more than this urgent cause to lead them to come.  Either I have to be there or it does not matter anymore.  For if I no longer feel the need to be present around the Word and Table of the Lord, is there any faith left in me?  Any of Christ left in me? 

I fear that we have given in and made relevance and reward new categories for being in the Divine Service and have turned the whole thing on end.  I have often complained of those who missed worship and then asked "Did anything special happen?"  Only to be told, "Nah, same old, same old."  Really?  We have to make it "special" to convince people it is worth going?  No.  We need to be there, we must be there.  That is the reason.  Nothing less.  I must be there and receive His gifts of grace... or I will DIE!  (Maybe not instantaneously but the long, drawn out, death of those who do not even realize they are dying!)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Indeed and amen!

Janis Williams said...

True needs have been replaced with false ones. We "need" an iPhone 5c, we "need" a huge plasma TV, the cooles car, the most trendy clothes, the right hair.

Needs have moved from internal to external while our faith has moved from the external Word (means) to the internal voice (spiritual self).

Anonymous said...

The vicar in our church was giving a sermon when he said we GET to go to church. It's a privilege and a right, but here in Canada, we GET to go to church. Right now I would have to live in Egypt. I pray for those souls who are dying for their faith. Oh that I would have just a pinch of their faith.

Keaton Christiansen said...

Pastor Peters-

I agree with your point, and thank you for being one of the few to make it again. Because I am sympathetic to the argument you're making, I'd ask for clarification on one point.

How would you handle who understood the "need" for the Lord's Supper in a legalistic way? As if receiving the Word was something we could do by putting in the minimal effort of attendance, yet ignore the importance of receiving in faith, for the forgiveness of sins? Christians could show up to church knowing that they "need" to... and end up with some kind of "ex opere operatum" understanding of the church.

Again, I'm not disagreeing with you. I believe that we do earnestly need the Word and Sacrament more than anything else in existence. But the term "need" might be somewhat misleading, which may be why it isn't used broadly today. Thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you talked about the family meal growing up. I remember my mom's cooking, a lot of people from my home church did too. She was a great cook, and she loved to cook. Actually I think my mom's cooking might was her favorite way to show her kids(and others) that she loved them. We had family meals around the table just about every evening. And just like you said, when it was time to eat it was time to eat, you had to be there!
My mom put a LOT of time into her cooking. She could have just served raw vegetables every night, and that probably would have been better for us, and it would have been easier to prepare. But she made food we loved. And she showed us her love by preparing a meal that was healthy, tasty, and plentiful.
The food filled us, the time around the table brought us together, and it was always delicious.
We needed to be there for the food. We needed to be there because mom said so. But we wanted to be there because mom showed love through a well prepared meal and the whole family was gathered around the table. And when we ate a delicious meal, we knew our mom loved us.
I don't think that's too unlike what Pastors are called to do each Sunday morning.