In his most recent Issues Etc Journal Todd Wilken has this to say about our Sunday morning worship services:
What if, when that Sunday morning visitor wandered into church, we made it clear to him that this is the Lord's Day and the Lord's house because the Lord Himself-Jesus-is there? What if everything we said and did while he was visiting our church-every word, gesture, action, song and prayer-clearly confessed this? What if, instead of reengineering the day to fit his expectations, we taught him to expect nothing less than Jesus, in person, forgiving sins?Wilken's line of questioning is right on the money. What is missing from Christian worship is not the right style of music or the right kind of decorations. What is often missing is Jesus. Many churches fail to preach anything resembling the Gospel, and settle for self-help instructions for better living.
Yet even among those churches where Christ is proclaimed regularly and the Lord's Supper is celebrated frequently, there still seems to be something else missing. I will call it JOY.
Lutherans in particular seem to get the reverence thing right. We are very respectful of the fact that we are in the presence of Jesus. We take it seriously. And that is a very good thing.
But what about the awe? What about the joy? Should these also not be part of our reaction when we come into the presence of Jesus Christ? I think so.
The Roman church thinks of Jesus as our great Judge, so they believe we must approach Him with fear and trembling, that we must come to Him only through other intermediaries like Mary and the Apostles.
This is not, however, the Lutheran way. Lutherans confess that Jesus comes to us Himself. He is not only our Judge, but also our Advocate. He is not trying to hide behind intermediaries, but giving us all of Himself all the time. We should come to Him reverently, but also joyfully. We should approach, not trembling with fear, but struck with awe that God would come to us.
The reason I say this is because people often think that contemporary worship styles will create this sense of joy and awe. If we change the music, make it more exciting, then people will want to come to church. If we get a more exhilarating preacher, then people will not only stay awake for the message, but be excited to come and hear it.
To be fair, their concerns are for outreach and evangelism. It is often older members who suggest these things because they want their children and grandchildren to be in worship, to be excited about coming to church. And who can blame them?
What if, as Wilken suggests, we acted like Jesus was really there on Sunday mornings, because He is? What if, when people asked why you went to church you responded with, "So that I could hear and receive Jesus"? What if you rolled out of bed each Sunday morning exhilarated at the thought of bringing your family into the presence of God, who suffered and died for them? What if Lutherans sang their hymns with joy and spoke their responses with all the happiness that the Gospel can bring?
"This is the Word of the Lord."
"THANKS BE TO GOD!"
If this were the case I think we would put to death any discussion about contemporary worship forms in our midst. No one would care about changing the form, because hearts would be changed already. Nobody would be asking for a rock band when they so clearly see Jesus, not only in the words that are preached, but in the pious and joyful responses of the congregation.
Jesus is present on Sunday morning. Amen!