Preparing for the Lord's Day
I love to see families walking through the doors of the auditorium on Lord's Day morning. I see each of them as a living stone coming together to form a living temple in order to worship the living God. They were once like the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision scattered about in the valley of the shadow of death. But now, by God's sovereign grace, they have spiritual muscle, saintly sinew, and a renewed and healthy heart beats within each breast. These belong to Christ and they are glorious to behold.
However, I am under no false impressions. I realize that these beautiful families have their mornings - even on the Lord's Day. In other words, there are some Lord's Days that these same folk might describe their trip to church using the language of Ezekiel thirty-seven, "There was a noise, and behold a rattling; and the bones came together"! Especially on mornings like these, it is important for us to keep a checklist of things we must not forget when we go to worship. So, let me give you five crucial things to remember when going to church - no matter what the morning may be like.
First, remember that worship is not about you, but it calls for your full participation. Likely, every believer would give this a vigorous "amen!" On difficult mornings, the one thing you are thinking about is yourself and your family - and not all of it good. For instance, on the way to church maybe your heart is still stewing about the kid's bad behavior and perhaps their hearts are stewing about yours. What a great opportunity to bring the gospel to bear on the life of the family! What a great way to help everyone understand that you are headed to worship the Savior who is the source of our reconciliation before God and each other.
Second, remember that worship is not a lecture hall, but it is also not a living room. Some mornings it is hard not to feel like your family just crash-landed in the chairs, and sometimes that sense of chaos follows you into worship, at least, in your mind. The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God supplies some very practical direction at just this point. It says that if any are hindered from being present from the beginning of worship they ought to come in and compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand. In other words, come in, get situated quickly, and begin to worship! To put it another way, join the family activities!
Third, remember that the preacher is leading, but God is speaking. Paul reminds us of this several times throughout his letters. Take Romans 10:14-15a for example. Paul writes, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" Clearly, we hear the Lord in the faithful preaching of the preacher, which ought to motivate us to the full measure of engagement. Brothers and sisters, what could be more inducing than to realize that the God of heaven and earth is speaking to you and your family?
Fourth, remember that singing well matters, but what you sing teaches and admonishes your brothers and sisters (Colossians 3:16). Now, this may be a hard pill to swallow, especially on mornings when you feel the need to be mentored rather than mentor! Yet, in God's providence think of how wonderful it is on a difficult morning to be encouraged by your spiritual siblings singing the great themes of forgiveness, grace, and God's good commandments.
Fifth, remember that you are glorifying God, but in worship, God is doing something in you and your family that will last for all eternity. Brothers and sisters, take heart, Christ is being formed in you. Let me tell you what that means practically. It means that God is shaping you and your family. No, you will not be perfect this side of eternity, but from the inside out, you will grow more and more Christ-like - and so will your family. That alone ought to give you and your family hope as the Lord's Day approaches.
So, come with a clatter and then compose yourselves under the mighty hand of God for He cares for you. Tomorrow in worship you will see just how much He does.
Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Editorial Director of Ref21 and Place for Truth both online magazines of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.