Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Importance of Church Attendance

Pastor’s Window on August, 2007

The Importance of Church Attendance

We often think of our membership in the Christian Church as just one part of our lives. Perhaps it is even the most important part of our lives, but it is still just one part among many. Our lives are defined by other things, as well; for example, our family, our job, or our hobbies. But for the earliest Christians, their entire lives were defined by their identity as Christians. If someone asked one of these early Christians, “Who are you? Tell us about yourself,” that Christian would likely answer right off the bat, “I am a Christian.” This is not to say that early Christians didn’t have other interests. They also had families and jobs and hobbies. But these things did not define who they were. Their identity came from God’s Word. God gave them their identity in Holy Baptism. When asked about their identity, they would respond, “I am a Christian.”[1]

The truth is, as a baptized Christian, no matter how you think of your identity, you are also defined entirely by your connection to Christ. Who are you? You are a Christian. You are baptized into Christ. You are a member of His Body. You are baptized into His death and resurrection. He has washed you clean and given you the robe of His righteousness. He has given you a new Name, the Christian family Name, the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You are now a child of the heavenly Father. So being a Christian is not just a part of your life, not even the most important part. It is your life. Everything else, including family, job, hobbies, etc., is part of who you are as a Christian.

Since this is true, since your whole life is defined by your identity as a Christian, attending the Divine Service is not just a part of your life, either. At least it shouldn’t be. Instead, it should be your first priority. I know it’s easy not to come. It’s easy to sleep in. It’s easy to skip it and go golfing or fishing instead. It’s easy to decide you’re not feeling quite up to it on a Sunday morning. But something subtle happens when you start to give in to these excuses. Without even noticing it, you start to fall out of the habit of coming to church. Not only that, something even subtler and really quite sinister starts to happen. Without even noticing it, your faith starts to weaken and corrode. The devil slowly takes a little bit firmer hold on you. It happens so slowly that you aren’t even aware of it, until one day you look back at where you were and where you are now, and you wonder how you got there.

You need to be in church. Your faith needs to be nourished by Word and Sacrament. Sunday morning on the lake is not the same as Sunday morning with Jesus Christ and His holy people, hearing His Word and eating and drinking His body and blood. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb. 10:25; NIV). Rather, let us be like the Christians in the early Church, who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42; ESV). In other words, come to the Divine Service and receive the gifts God so freely gives His Christians. “(G)row in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate reasons for missing the Sunday morning Divine Service, for example, illness. But this should be the exception, not the rule. Some people also have to work on Sunday mornings and can’t help it. If you can’t come on Sunday, come to our Wednesday service, which will begin again on September 5. Just come. Make sure you’re in church. When you’re on vacation, visit another of our LCMS congregations. I would be glad to find you one to visit. Remember that we never take a vacation from being a Christian. It is who we are.

It is also who we are collectively. Your fellow Christians need you. You are one with them in the Communion of Saints. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (v. 26). If one member is absent, we all miss that member. If your pinky finger is severed in a tragic accident, your whole body is affected. Likewise the Holy Christian Church. Every member is important. When you attend the Divine Service faithfully, you not only receive nourishment for yourself, you also serve your fellow Christians. Not to mention, you owe it to your family to get them to church so that they can receive the gifts of Christ, too.

Don’t neglect the gifts our Lord offers in the Divine Service. Receive them faithfully. Your Lord Jesus Christ died for your sin and unfaithfulness, and gives you new resurrection life in Baptism. He gives you His righteousness and faithfulness. Now you are a Christian in the same way that you are a human being. Word and Sacrament sustain your Christian life in the same way that food and water sustain your physical life. You can’t live without it. When you neglect it, your health deteriorates, and eventually, you die. But your Lord has promised to sustain your life. He gives the gifts freely. Faith receives the gifts. You know where the gifts are. They are here among God’s people in this place called Epiphany Lutheran Church. See you Sunday.

Pastor Krenz

[1] See the article, “I Am a Christian,” by the Rev. James G. Busher, For the Life of the World, Jan. 2007, Vol. 11, No. 1

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