This is the 4th sermon from the "Just One Question Series." The question this Sunday was "What's the point of going to church?")

"What It’s All About”

It’s About Going, not Coming

It’s About Needed, not Need To

          How often would you meet me?  If I asked you today to meet me with me at Caribou at a scheduled time this week, would you try to do it?  I hope you would.  Now what would you be thinking, if you showed up at the set time and we had a cup of coffee together.  Maybe I told you a funny story or two.  While we sat there you saw a few of your friends walk in and they sat with us for a while.  Maybe we both even went overboard and had a pastry while we talked.  As our time came to an end, I got up to leave and asked you to meet there again next week.  Would you do that a second time?  A third?  Now maybe you really like the coffee that is served there.  Maybe you as so delusional to think I am a funny guy and you really like my stories.  Maybe you like seeing your friends and having pastries.  But the question would need to be asked whether you came once or every time.  What’s the point?  Why are we meeting together if these things are all we are going to do?  How big of a jump do we need to take to ask these questions about gathering here at church?  Why in the world, do you busy people give up time to be here at this place?  Have you asked yourself that question lately?  Is it the coffee and snacks?  The entertainment?  The music or social aspect?   There is nothing wrong with us enjoying any and all of these things, but are any of those answers a good enough reason to be here often?  Let’s look very closely today at why we gather here together.  We are going to see what it’s all about.  It’s about going, not coming.  It’s about needed, not need to.
          The point of church is not simply coming here, is it?  I am sure that none of you would answer the question in that way.  If someone asks you why you go to church, would any of us really say, “Well the point is that I am there.”  No, I don’t think we would.  But is that thought that I just need to get there, sometimes more of a motivator than we would like to admit?  Do we give people the impression that the final goal, the point of worship is simply that I find myself in the pew Sunday morning or Monday evening?  There, I came to church.  Never mind the fact that we went and listened but what we heard that day doesn’t make it to the parking lot with us as we leave church, let alone all the way home and into our weeks.  Never mind the fact that I was there physically, but my mind was everywhere else.  It’s not my fault that pastor was really boring today.  If these things are true, aren’t we essentially saying, all that matters is that I come to church?  That’s all that needs to be done.
          Or is the point of church simply coming here because it’s what we always do?  This is what I have been doing since I was a child.  This is what I have done every Sunday for years.  But stop and ask yourself, when you got in the car this morning, did you think about why you were coming to church?  Did you stop and consider what the point of showing up here was?  Whether you are someone who has been regular in worship for a long time or you are someone who wants to get back into going to church or to try it out, would our answer to why do you want that be nothing more than, I am going to come to church?  Isn’t such a view of worship really silly and pointless.  I am going just to be there.  I am coming to church because that is what I should do. 

          The point of going to church is not about coming here.  The point of going to church is going while you are here.  Don’t misunderstand me.  It’s important to be here in church.  Whether you are someone who is here every Sunday, someone who tries to get here a few times a month, someone who is trying to get back into the church thing, or someone who is trying it out, I am glad you are here.  But being here is not the all important step.  Getting here is just the beginning.  The point of worship is where we go when we come here.  That is what our verses this morning talk about.  “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  The reason that you come here is not to be here.  The reason you come here is where we go together when we are here.

          It is when we are here that we go to approach the Almighty God of the universe.  It is here where we stand together to enter into God’s presence in a very real way.  You come here to go to meet with God.  And notice what it is that allows us to enter into God’s presence.  It is not a spotless church attendance record that we hold up to God and say look at how many times I was in church.  No, you and I boldly stand in God’s presence today and hold up the blood of Jesus.  We march into God’s throne room, confess our sins together, and plead for God’s mercy, because we have a great High Priest who shed his blood to cleanse us and purify us.  We come to church so we can go to hear from our God his message for us.  A message of law that points out our sins and a message of forgiveness and promises.  

We come here because a new way has been opened to us.  How many times would you come to church if every time you showed up the doors were locked?  For the Old Testament believer, they continued to come to the Temple, but they did not go to stand in God’s presence.  No one did that, other than the priest with great fear once a year.  But understand where you are when you come here today.  You are standing in the holy of holies.  You are standing in the presence of God as he dwells with us and works among us through his Word and his Sacraments.  You come here to meet your priest, and I don’t mean the pastor.  You come here to meet the one who is over all of God’s house, over all of God’s people.  The one who bids you to go and meet with God every time you come and meet here.  The point of coming is so that you can go.  The pew is not your final destination on your journey to church.  It is the first stop as you journey to the very throne of God to hear him declare with joy that you are cleansed and pure through the blood of his Son and the pure water of baptism. 

Would we need any more reason to gather here together?  Do we need any more purpose than to enter into God’s presence?  No, I don’t think so.  But God provides you and me more reasons to continue gathering together.  What is church all about?  It’s about needed, not need to.

Could you make the case that you can do all this going into God’s presence at home?  God is everywhere, why do I need to go to a certain place to worship him.  I would agree with the line of thought to a point.  You don’t need to come here to enjoy what we have been talking about.  God in his grace allows each one of us to enter his presence through Christ, whether we do that here as a group or you do that personally and privately as you take your sins to God and receive forgiveness from him.  As you study his word and sit at his feet to hear what he has to say.  But this argument really is based on a false premise regarding what church is all about.  Coming to church is not about you need to do it.  It’s really about the way in which it is needed by each one of us.
          God meets your needs when you gather here together.  Look at what God calls on each one of us to do.  “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Think about the three tasks that you see here and ask again what the point of worship is.  It’s because it is needed.

We are called upon to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.  God wants you and me to lock onto the truth that we have from his word like a clamp holding a piece of word.  Firmly and relentlessly.  Are you up to that challenge?  Do you grasp with certainty the truth you have learned?  Or do we let parts of our knowledge slip?  Are you as sharp as your were the day you were confirmed?  And we aren’t just talking about memorization and Bible knowledge.  God wants you to hold onto the truths of salvation firmly.  There are so many forces that want to knock such things out of your hands.  The devil wants to pry them loose little lie by little lie.  The world wants to distract you from them so your grip slackens.  Your sinful nature wants to jettison these teachings that get in its way.  Are you up to the challenge of holding unswervingly to them?  We all must confess that we have failed to do this, but look at the blessing that church can be in this regard.  You can gather with fellow believers and hear the truths of God repeated for you and reapplied.  You can squeeze tighter the joy you have of hearing about your forgiveness and receiving it through the word and the Lord’s Supper.  You can confess the truth together.

The second thing we are encouraged to do is to show love and carry out good deeds.  To do good works.  Notice the need that is met here at worship.  Let us focus on how we can spur one another one to such things.  Showing love for God and our neighbor is what our lives are to be about now.  Such love does not come naturally to us.  It is a love that flows only out of seeing God’s love for us, the love that we can enter his presence.  But now we have a chance to spur each other one.  If you can picture a track meet, what a difference it makes for a runner when he or she hears the rest of the team urging them on.  The point of coming to church is not because we need to do it, but because we need the help.  We need one another being examples.  We need one another pushing us to do more great works.  We need one another to help us carry out some works that we couldn’t do on our own.  We need to push each other, not against one another, but toward the same goal, showing love in word and action.
          Finally, we need what is here because we need encouragement.  The challenges that face us are many and the race of our faith fatigues us.  But we can encourage one another.  We need to be encouraged when we grow tired and we need to be encouragements when we are strong.  Think about what you see when you walk through those doors.  You see a host of other people, some similar to you, some very different.  But you see a group of people who struggle with sin just like you do.  You see a group of people who want to hear about God’s forgiveness just like you do.  You see a group of people who want to push one another on to the same goals, growth in holding onto our faith and sharing that message with others.  What can be more encouraging?  Look around you and see why you need to be here.  You have brothers and sisters who need you.  You have brothers and sisters who are needed by you. 

I started this morning by asking you that question, “How often would you meet me?”  Jesus asks you that question this morning.  Notice today you did not hear the magic number of services you need to make in a given year.  God does not command you to come to church.  He simply wants to show you his reason for meeting with him.  He wants you to come into his presence as his cleansed children through the blood of Jesus.  He wants you to be strengthened and encouraged to hold onto the truth you know and to produce love and good deeds.  He wants you to be blessed and to be a blessing to one another.  That is the point in being here.  That is the point the Jesus has for worship.  How often will you meet him here?  Amen.