Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that he was not Irish, but English? Then why is he the saint of Ireland? Let us know in the comments.
The statement ‘We go to church to meet God’ raises the question, ‘Do I have to go to church to meet God?’
Yes, God is present everywhere in his creation: in nature, in the joy of family, in the togetherness of the national community, in the privacy of prayer. In that sense, one can be with God anywhere. And it is appropriate to remember that, especially at times when one is prevented from gathering with other believers.
But Martin Luther was very fond of reminding us that God is ‘God for us’ only in Jesus Christ. Nature can be destructive. The family or the nation can become oppressive. The private prayer unformed by the Word can become unhinged (think Tammy Faye Bakker and her prayer for an RV).
So we cannot use ‘God is present everywhere’ as an excuse for not attending worship. Christ is encountered in the community of believers gathered in his name. This is how he came to his disciples after the resurrection; when they were gathered together (even in a group of as few as two!) he appeared to them. Even when he appeared to one person alone (Mary Magdalene in the garden, Paul on the Damascus road) the appearance led them to the community of believers, to witness to what they had seen and heard.
If we use ‘God is present everywhere’ as an excuse to stay away from worship, we cut ourselves off from hearing what Jesus has to say to us and what he has to give to us. We also cut ourselves off from the other people that God has given us to serve. If you have used this phrase as an excuse for neglecting church, let this be your wake-up call. If you regularly attend worship, this is a call to be attentive to what God is doing in the service, how he speaks, what he gives.