Joy at Going to the House of the Lord

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  November 26, 2016

            The words of the Psalmist can be so easily overlooked as simple praise, yet they speak a profound truth. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
            Psalm 122 begins with this joyous acclamation of the sheer joy and absolute pleasure in attending to worship. Although it explicitly references worship in Jerusalem, it has implications for any House of the Lord in which one may have the opportunity to worship. For the modern reader, the opening verse of this Psalm proclaims that there is great joy in the opportunity to worship in church!
            Going to church, however, is not often spoken of in such joyous, enthusiastic, or exciting terms. For many, the church is an obligation. It is a thing that must be done in order to claim authenticity as a Christian. It is a worthwhile reality that must be done in order to keep God happy. In many cases, being in church is reduced down to something we tolerate in order to keep someone else happy. For a vast number of people, the obligation of being in church is simply not worth enduring and the believer simply substitutes any number of more entertaining, enjoyable, or otherwise more important activities in on Sunday morning.
            So much for being glad when we are told we are going to be in the House of the Lord. There are some who would be far from glad. In fact, there are many would be mad.
            This time of the year there is a lot of focus on what makes people happy. It is easy to focus energy and effort (not to mention lots of money) in attempting to purchase happiness. Marketers have a stronghold on American Consumers because we can easy come to believe in the need to make our vital contribution to the overall good of society and preserve vital relationships all at the same time by shopping.
            In today’s modern society, the church can find itself standing at a point of frustrating opposition to the entertainment-minded focus of our culture. Our consumer-driven society is also saturated with mind-numbing media designed to provide pleasurable entertainment for the purpose of drawing consumers into the sphere of influence where advertising is permitted to make its pitch. Come! Be entertained. And, perhaps while you are at it, consider what we have to sell. Together, we will bring your life more happiness.
            Creating an entertaining church is not the answer. A church attempting to simply make people feel good by providing a stimulating environment of religious-themed entertainment is a dangerous route for any church to take. It may attract a lot of happy churchgoers, but rarely does it fundamentally serve God, positively affect the world, or transform the entertained masses into genuine disciples.
            Watering down the message of the church is not an answer either. It is not uncommon for people who go to church (or who want to have a reason for going to church) to approach pastors and church leaders with requests for sermons that make people feel good, that don’t challenge the things congregations do not want to hear, or make God out to be too harsh, judgmental, or punitive. They call for a religion of happy thoughts, positive feelings, and reassurance that everything is going to be just fine.
            The joy comes in working for the things that are greater than what you, I, or someone else may get out of church. It is in reclaiming the simple joy of coming to the House of Lord and, having been empowered in worship of God, to then reach out and be the church. It is more than just worship, it is action, service, and ministry to the world’s most vulnerable all in God’s love!