By "it's been awhile" I mean that the last thing I read/watched at that website while I was attempting to go through things in a systematic order each and every week was -- um, gulp! -- way back on September 16th, 2014! Yikes -- that's almost a full year! What's wrong with me, right?
The good news is that I've finally gone back to try and make up for lost time. It seems I need to go all the way to page 31 in order to pick up where I left off!
That's quite alright though, because if I hadn't, then I never would've found this gem about whether or not going to church more and/or receiving the Lord's Supper more somehow makes us "better" Christians than those who don't go as much or who don't receive it as much.
Does Greater Church Attendance And Communion Reception Make A Better Christian?
Q: Are Christians who advocate for faithful church attendance and advocate to receive the Sacrament of the Altar more frequently, ‘better’ Christians than those who attend and receive less frequently?
A: It is important to note that a greater frequency in church attendance and greater frequency of partaking of the Sacrament of the Altar does not necessary make one a ‘better’ Christian than the Christian who receives the Sacrament less frequently or attends church less frequently.
Otherwise stated, Christians who attend and partake more often are not elevated into a ‘Superior-Christian’ category, resulting in other Christians becoming meager minions. This is obviously a faulty conclusion. Rather, what is interesting is that many Christians, who promote faithful church attendance and faithful reception of the Supper, are typically coming at this issue from the exact opposite perspective. In other words, the reason why they advocate for frequent communion and consistent church attendance is probably best stated in the words of St. Aurelius Ambrose, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.”
I know for myself that it typically gets really bad throughout the week, as well as the majority of the parishioners that I have come to know. Daily I fail in my vocations of pastor, father, and husband. Add to that the 10 Commandments and I have run dry come Sunday each week. Thus, I go to church, along with others, as a beggar who is hungry and empty; I go to church with the week’s memories of doing the very things that I should not have done and failing to do what I ought to do. I come each Sunday to the Divine Service as a damned, weak, and tired sinner.
There is hope though.
In the Divine Service, as printed in the Lutheran Service Book, I get to go to church and receive not only the Word but also the Sacraments! Yes, all three! As we come into the Divine Service we confess our sins and hear the Word of Absolution. We even make the sign of the cross numerous times in remembrance of our Baptism. The Divine Service delivers to us lessons from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospel as well. Don’t forget the Sermon! Then, the Divine Service ushers us into the Sacrament of the Altar. Yes, the Divine Service in the Lutheran Service Book delivers all three means of grace. No stinginess at all! It is like combining my birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month into one incredibly fabulous event! We hear absolution and are reminded of our Baptism; we are pulled out of our man-centered narcissistic narratives into God’s narrative (i.e., the Word of Law obliterates the old Adam and the Word of Gospel grants us grace and faith); and we get to see, smell, taste, feel, and eat the body and blood given and shed for us. All of our senses are involved in receiving forgiveness! (And thank God for we surely need it every Sunday.)
Indeed, grace is found and delivered in: the Absolution and the remembrance of our Baptism, the proclaimed Word, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
And get this, all of this is better than a birthday, Father’s Day, and pastor appreciation month combined into one event. Yes, all three means of grace are given to us ‘every’ ‘single’ ‘week’ at the Divine Service -- for the forgiveness of our sins.
It makes one laugh with elation to think that Sunday is abounding with gifts, gifts, and more gifts for us poor miserable sinners! So, the questions that arise now are, “Why exclude the gift of Communion from Sunday services? Why would one want to miss out on attending a weekly Divine Service?”
My friends, we do not go to church or promote more frequency of the Lord’s Supper in order to ontologically climb to a new Superior-Christian status, but we advocate for these things because we always sin and thus, we always need the good, free, and gracious medicine -- poured, proclaimed, given, and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Indeed, gifts and more gifts -- for us. They are freely given. That is the way it is with our Sunday Divine Service, where the Lord serves us.
In true Worldview Everlasting fashion, that response to such a common question that I think is so prevalent in Christ's Church today, strikes at the heart of the issue by striking at our own hearts (and sinful pride) with the truth from God's Word about the gifts we receive at church.
Thanks be to God! To think I used to have a disdain for all denominations to the point where I believed, taught, and confessed that it was somehow better for you if you didn't go to a church each week when it is there in Christ's Church where we receive His forgiveness for our sins and the medicine we so desperately need for our conflicted consciences and sick souls still blows my mind to this day.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, no Christian is "better" than another because he/she goes to church more and/or receives Communion more, but that doesn't mean we should neglect going to church as Hebrews 10:25 reminds us "not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Why? As Pastor Matt Richard said...
"My friends, we do not go to church or promote more frequency of the Lord's Supper in order to ontologically climb to a new Superior-Christian status, but we advocate for these things because we always sin and thus, we always need the good, free, and gracious medicine—poured, proclaimed, given, and shed for the forgiveness of our sins."
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!