Our Father is glad when the family gathers. He is eager to work, ready to pour out his favor and give fresh fillings of his Spirit, when his people assemble to worship his Son.
No matter what kind of week you’ve had — no matter how depleted your tank, how distracted your mind, or how disquieted your heart — God may be pleased to turn it all around on any given Sunday.
Come to the Waters
Corporate worship may be the single most important means of God’s grace in the Christian life because it brings together all three essential principles of his ongoing kindness: hearing his voice (in his word), having his ear (in prayer), and belonging to his body (in the fellowship of the church).
“No matter what kind of week you’ve had, God may be pleased to turn it all around on any given Sunday.”
When God’s people gather to worship Jesus together — with the Scriptures open and songs of praise, confession, and thanksgiving in our mouths — the Holy Spirit hovers over our assembly, standing ready to rejuvenate dull hearts and restore languishing souls.
The great invitation of Isaiah 55, crafted some seven centuries before Christ, is a fitting call to the banquet of corporate worship in the new covenant.
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live. (Isaiah 55:1–3)
Jesus is the true bread who came down from heaven (John 6:50, 58), and he is the true drink (John 6:55), the only drink, who will satisfy our thirsty souls forever.
You were not only made for God, but for the God-man. God himself designed your human soul to be satisfied forever in the personal union of full deity and full humanity in the one utterly unique God-man, in the company of a worshiping throng. You were made for Jesus.
In corporate worship, we taste together what we were made for. Together we sample the feast of the coming new heavens and new earth.
This doesn’t mean every Sunday is pure bliss. Far from it. Fallen humans in a fallen world are only rarely at their spiritual and emotional best. Our bodies are tired, and our spirits are lethargic. Miscues up front, energetic children in the pew, off-key singers in our ear, and unfinished work at home threaten to distract us from the sweetness of singing praises together with God’s people in the beauty of our grace-covered brokenness.
But in the chaos, there are tastes. Thirsty souls sample the life-giving water, the soul-nourishing substance of milk, the heart-gladdening sips of wine, in the experience of truth-inspired praise of the one who is the Truth.
So we can come thirsty, and come expectant by faith, to have our soul’s thirst quenched together in some satisfying measure in the family gathering.
But to this marvelous banquet, we bring not only empty stomachs, but also empty hands. The bill is taken care of. Jesus paid it all.
Not only do we come to drink, but we come without deeds as payment. The great invitation of his grace is to the one “who has no money.” We come for soul-satisfaction “without money and without price.”
The fuel of corporate worship is not the energy or preparation we bring, but the energy and preparation of God. The source is not our working for him, but the worship-inspiring truth that he works for those who wait for him. We wait; he works. Which makes him utterly unique among all other rivals for our praise.
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)
His working and grace are original and ultimate, and yet he would woo us to take faith-filled steps of preparation to come ready. He works through means. He gives us the dignity of participation. His grace not only meets us despite our undeservedness, but goes the extra mile to engage our wills to prime our hearts for the joys of collective adoration.
Anticipating the assembly, and seeking to tune our hearts to sing his praise, prepares our appetites for the tastes of glory to come — a glory in the gathering that is sampled together, not in isolation.
Fellow worshipers encountered before, during, and after worship are not impediments to true worship, but inspirations. Corporate worship is, after all, corporate. We prepare our hearts for the joy of praising Jesus by greeting his people with open hearts, big smiles, and, when appropriate, shared tears.
Come as You Are
While a heart of worship is typically helped by our faithful efforts at preparation, our preparation is never ultimate. In fact, the Holy Spirit is often pleased to “show up” despite our lack, or total absence, of preparation. Which is no cause for abuse, but for adoration. The lesson for us in it is not that Monday to Saturday don’t matter in getting ready for Sunday, but rather that God is sovereign and free, not limited by our failures, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
“No matter how far away you feel from the Father, there is nothing you need more this weekend than corporate worship.”
On any given Sunday, God might be pleased to turn your world upside down, in all the best ways. Like the weary psalmist who came to worship, and finally the fog cleared (Psalm 73:16–17). Or like Martin Luther, who testified, “At home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.” Or as countless of us have learned, our Father simply loves to bless the family gathering.
Your sluggishness and lethargy are no reason to stay away from his waterfall of grace. No matter how far away from the Father you feel, there is perhaps nothing you need more this weekend than his bounty in corporate worship.