Sometimes we experience “church” like we’re putting in our time for God. This is because most of the Christians around us view “going to church” as either something that we do for God (we come to church on Sunday to worship Him for what He’s done throughout the week) or as the place we come to learn about God or to learn how to live a better life. While there are elements of these things in what happens on the Lord’s Day, we miss the point if we make those the only, or even the primary, reasons for why we are in the church building with other Christians. If we view going to church in those terms, we will either satisfy our own self-righteousness when we are glad to be there, or we will feel guilty if we are not glad. And then, when there are “more services,” as in Lent and Easter, the burden will only grow.
However, the fact that we are not always “glad when they said, ‘Let us go up to the House of the Lord’” is only evidence that we need to be there. Because (as you’ve no doubt heard me say before) we do not “go to church” primarily to worship God (as that is commonly understood), nor do we go for any of the reasons that put me first as the subject of the verbs. This is why Lutherans prefer “Divine Service” for what is happening in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day. God (“divine”) serves us in Jesus Christ. He is the primary subject of all the verbs; He gives the Gifts; He does the work; He forgives sins and gives life. This is why gathering with the people of God is not optional—not because it is something you have to do to be saved, but because it’s where God delivers to you what He has done for you to be saved. The Divine Service is simply Jesus for you, and you need Him whether you think you do, or not. So do I.