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Worshiping in Empty Pews

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Psa. 122:1  I Was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” 

Sitting in an empty sanctuary on a Sunday morning feels so odd.  So wrong. I look around and can almost visualize where you all sit.  I miss the music and the prayers and the reading of Scripture. I miss being able to preach.  I miss the fellowship with you all. I even miss the noise. Someone has said that we don’t really appreciate what we have until it gets taken away. And that is the case this morning.  

How are you doing this Lord’s day morning?  Was your mood more of “I was sad when they said to me I couldn’t go to the house of the Lord?”  Or was it “I was mad…?” If so, you have begun to understand what a great blessing it is to be able to come to worship God.  I know for many of us, Sunday morning is a blessed relief from the world as we can rest in, learn from, exalt God and be changed by Him.  It is a time of confession and a time of praise. But the beauty of coming to the house of the Lord is not just about me and what I get out of it.

Notice the plural—Let US go to the house of the Lord.  It is also a blessing to know that we are not alone. That our God has truly redeemed and is redeeming a people for Himself.  We look around on a Sunday morning and are encouraged by the number of fellow travelers on this road. Young and old, men and women, boys and girls together.  That’s why attending church is such a blessing. 

You could stay at home and watch a service on TV or on your computer.  You can read the Bible and pray quietly at home. But that’s just not what David is talking about.

Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Heb. 10:24 -25 says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”  Even in the early church, some were being tempted not to meet with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s wrong. We need the encouragement, support, love and fellowship of church attendance. 

All of the one another commands of Scripture are carried out in the church between people, not in isolation.  As believers, we can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), forgive one another (Colossians 3:13) and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). 

Martin Luther said about Psalm 122, “  We will go into the house of the Lord, what notable thing can we see in these words if we only behold the stones, timber, gold, and other ornaments of the material temple? But to go into the house of the Lord signifies another manner of thing; namely, to come together where we may have God present with us, hear his word, call upon his holy name, and receive help and (assistance) in our necessity..….the temple of Solomon was not therefore beautiful because it was adorned with gold and silver, and other precious ornaments; but the true beauty of the temple was, because in that place the people heard the word of the Lord, called upon his name, found him merciful, giving peace and remission of sins….”

This “ban” on attendance won’t last forever.  And when it is over, I pray that your heart will sing and rejoice that once more we can be together in God’s house.  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

May the Lord bless you and Keep you!

Pastor George