(Photo by joseluisnunes on Morgue File.)
Why do we worship? One could also ask, why do millions of Christians around the globe, attend services today? Of course, these may not be one and the same question. Attending a service may speak to many things: it may speak to ritual, habit, duty, obligation, or the like. Now, none of those are bad, per se, but surely more is expected.
One may attend any number of services, even calling them worship services, and, in fact, never worship a single time. Is it necessarily wrong to have the ritual, habit, duty, a sense of obligation in attending church on a regular basis? At one time I would have answered yes. Yes, that is all wrong. Now, I would give a more nuanced answer.
Before, we speak about worship proper, let us discuss this matter that I have raised for just a bit. I think it can be agreed upon that the most ideal situation would be to attend services and truly worship God while there. We may call this the optimal choice. This is what pastors and leaders would prefer if they were given the choice to choose. They would want their congregants to attend services, after all that is good for the books, the health of the church and, in some wise, ah hem, job security! But, they would also prefer for those same congregants to show up, but to do so with a proper attitude and perspective: namely, to truly worship the Lord.
On the other end of the spectrum, we shall call this the least of the less choice, would be for congregants to, not only not show up, but also not to worship God either. This would be a double whammy on top of a double negative! Of course, this least of the less happens from, shall we say, time to time!
Now, somewhere in the middle would be the rest of the masses. Some may see this as simply the status quo. After all, when it comes to almost anything, even religion and politics, most do not fall on the extremes; rather, they clump together in the mass of the middle.
Now, to this middle mass, we ask, is attendance as a ritual/habit the worst thing imaginable? Again, my answer to that question has changed over the years. At one time, I would have said such an attitude was egregious and if that is the best one could do, they might as well just stay home. Sadly, I said this from the pulpit more than once.
Now, I would answer, as I said before, with a more thoughtful, nuanced view. Let’s face it, we all would love to be at optimal functionality each and every Sunday; but, let’s also face the reality that this just is not so. Now, there may be any number of reasons for it, but these are not really my point in this post.
The point is this: there are times when optimal just isn’t happening. So, what then should we do? Just skip it and stay home and get an early leg up on the early NFL game? I do not think our less than optimal is quite that detrimental to the worship environs as to warrant that all or nothing approach.
Instead, there are times, in the life of an ardent disciple of Christ, when ritual and habit must rule the day and we do what is right, simply because it is what is right. Sometimes, attendance at the weekly worship service, even when done simply out of ritual or duty is better than nothing.
No, I’m not saying we want this to be the norm. That is to say, simply showing up with no real sense of true worship at all. But, sometimes showing up is half the battle. Much like quiet times and devotional readings, sometimes we may not feel like doing them, but if we do, you never know what God may do!
I know there have been times in my life, when I did not really feel like going to church that week. It would have been easy just to stay home and count one up to bad attitude, low energy or some general mood of lethargy. (Yes, of course there have been times when I have ceded to such.) But, I drug myself out of bed and into the shower anyway and went. Not because I was really looking forward to the service. Not because I had any great desire to worship or praise that morning. No, I did it simply because it was my duty, my habit to do so.
I cannot say that each of those times, God did some miraculous thing in my life and I saw visions and great miracles! No, some of those times I went, was generally disinterested in the whole shebang, (and even a bit bored), and was glad when the final Amen was said and rushed out the door and straight for my couch!
But, we seem to live in a day and age where words like duty, obligation, habit, ritual and the like are seen as four-letter words. I simply do not think that is the case. Those things can, at times, be great motivators and help us do what we know we should, even when we would rather not.
I mean, just imagine your pastor not showing up one Sunday, just because he did not feel like it! As a preacher, I can assure you, there have been times when I was preaching that morning or evening and I still did not feel like going!
I pray that today, as with everyday, you will truly worship the Lord. I pray you will be faithful to where God has placed you and serve him with vigor and dedication there. I pray you will support your local church and your pastor and leadership.
And, I pray you will be there today, even if you would rather just stay in bed! Sometimes duty is its own reward!