Worship: Comfortable or Comforting? 

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:12

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  Isaiah 40:1-2

The first Sunday that my family spent sitting on the couch while watching the Divine Service from our congregation was a bit uncomfortable.  However, it quickly got to be more comfortable.  Our typical time of 8:00 a.m. was pushed back to allow for some to sleep later.  The dress clothes got to be more and more casual.  The pause and fast forward buttons were both used at different points.  While three of us sat on the couch, one sat in the recliner and made full use of its capabilities.  We got quite comfortable in our clothes, on our couch and with our late morning starting time for worship.

Many people have gotten comfortable with worship, but it is not intended to be comfortable.  One of the Greek words for worship (proskuneo) means to fall down and worship or literally the kiss the ground before another as a sign of homage.  Falling prostrate before the only true God is not a comfortable posture.  It is an act of humility and praise, of repentance and adoration towards the One who created and redeemed all things.  Worship is not intended for your physical comfort.  Early services and hard pews are not considered by many to be particularly comfortable.  Neither are the confession of sins or the preaching of the Law.  Being confronted with our sin and shame are quite uncomfortable.

But worship is intended for your comfort.  It is the spiritual comfort that God offers to us in the Word of Absolution, the Good News proclaimed in the sermon and the peace bestowed in the Lord’s Supper.  Worship is not simply what we do for God as we sing or kneel, but chiefly what God freely gives to us through His Word and Sacraments.  God comforts troubled sinners with the tender words that their iniquities are pardoned for Jesus’ sake.

We don’t go to worship looking for physical comforts.  Sometimes the sanctuary is too hot, while other times too cold.  Sometimes there are crying babies and other times someone breaks out into a coughing fit.  The reason we want to attend worship with our fellow redeemed is so that we can receive the comfort of God’s precious gifts.  Roger Pittelko writes, “The dictionary understanding makes worship our action or response.  It turns worship into an anthropocentric activity that is measured and normed by what we do, by what we understand God to be.  The evangelical Lutheran understanding of worship is just the opposite.  It is from God to us.  It begins with God.  It has its foundation and sources with God.” (Lutheran Worship: History and Practice).

May God continue to bless you as He brings you the comfort of His grace that He bestows to us as we gather for worship.  For those who are not able to physically attend worship yet, God’s comfort is there for them through His Word, even as one sits in the comfy recliner.  Yet for those who have assembled with the other members of the flock, we have left the creature comforts of our home for the communal comfort of a Christian community gathered around Christ at the center.  May God continue to comfort troubled sinners with His tender love.

Prayer – Almighty and everlasting God, the consolation of the sorrowful and the strength of the weak, may the prayers of those who in any tribulation or distress cry to You graciously come before You so that in every situation they may recognize and receive Your gracious help, comfort and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen. 

Fraternally in Christ,

President Lee Hagan

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