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See You in Church!

For several years in the early 80’s, Roy Larson, the religion editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, would visit a church on Sunday morning, write a review and publish his review in the Monday morning paper. Clergy trembled, fearing a visit from Mr. Larson. Every Pastor wanted a visit and a review, but only if it was complimentary.

Anticipating a possible visit prompted Pastors, musicians and worship leaders to put extra effort in their Sunday preparations. But it was also an invitation to view Sunday morning as entertainment.

A prodding that delivered more diligent preparation was good, but everything has two sides, and some began seeking to either deliver or attend the best show in town on Sunday morning, ignoring the reason we gather.

Why do we go to church every week?

The Augsburg Confession gives this reason for church as written by Phillip Melanchthon: “The church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.” (AC VII)

Martin Luther wrote in the Smalcald Articles (III, XII), “Thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.”

The book of Acts gives us an early history of the church. Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch where “for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians” (Acts 11). The word translated “church” is “ekklesia,”  “ek” means “out” and “kaleo” means “call.”  The word was used in ancient Greece by people disgusted with a corrupt and oppressive government. They called for an “ekklesia,” a “call out” of the assembly, urging others to refuse to accept the existing civil authority. If enough heeded the “ekklesia,” the “call out,” the government would collapse. An “ekklesia” was a peaceful walk-out freeing people from an oppressive civil society.

We go to church to be together as we listen to God’s word. We go to church to be nurtured through the sacraments. Church is a “calling out,” a calling out of sin’s oppression to freedom in Christ.

Church begins with humility and a willingness to admit our failings. We are unable to obey God’s commands, so we first confess our sins. Confession leads to forgiveness, mercy and God’s grace. Our forgiven grace-filled hearts are ready to hear God’s word, ready to pray for guidance, ready for the feast of the bread and wine of holy communion, ready and equipped to share the good news.

We can’t do church alone; we need each another. In church we have each other. So, next Sunday and every Sunday after, make going to church your Sunday morning habit.

I was 16 when I asked my dad if I could borrow the car to take a girl to the movies. It was a Friday; Dad reminded me it was Good Friday and replied saying: “Son, you breathe, you go to church.” I went to church, under silent protest that evening; my silent protestations continued for many months. But Dad instilled a habit that has persisted. Sunday always includes going to church. I love church.