I hope this is an easy answer, and yet I hope that this also causes you to consider your identity as a child of God. We know that St. Paul says, “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creation.” When we are baptized, God makes us a new creation giving us a new identity as a child of God.
Yet, there are results which stem from God’s work within us. To make an analogy, consider a marriage: When God unites 2 into 1, they are married. Flowing out of that, their actions, thinking, viewing of the world, all change. If not, the marriage would suffer. Can you imagine a healthy marriage where the couple rarely talks, spends no time together and shows no love toward one another? We would say they are married, but we would worry about the marriage lasting.
All analogies eventually break down, but my point is that the resulting actions do not make a couple married, just as our resulting Christian actions (i.e. prayer, reading, worshipping, proclamation) do not make us Christians. Rather the actions flow out of that new life God has placed within us. Christians, united with our groom, Jesus Christ, gather together, pray, listen to Him, receive His gifts of love and praise Him…in short, we worship.
These are actions which flow out of the life in us. Do they save us? No. God promises to never let us go, He has made us His children. Yet, if I ignore my wife, never speak with her, never kiss her, never hear how much she loves me...will MY love for HER die? Even as she remains faithful to me, I will gradually pull away from her and be enticed by others whom I open my heart up to. My actions towards her will not change her love for me, but they will change my love for her.
God wants to be first in our lives not because He needs our love, worship, praise, etc... but because we need Him. The closer we draw to Him, the more our adoration, love, faith, hope, comfort, peace grows.
In the apostle Thomas, we see what can happen when a person withdraws from the congregation. For a whole week Thomas carried with him the hopelessness and despair, having missed the appearance of Jesus; he missed the glory, the peace, the comfort that filled the other disciples’ hearts. It was not until Thomas was gathered together with the others again and Jesus appeared that his faith was renewed and hope restored. Each Sunday you and I have the opportunity to gather together and meet Jesus - in His word and in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. There Jesus appears for us, to forgive, strengthen and comfort us in this world full of tribulation.
When Pastor Mike and I preach and speak about being in worship, it is because we desire to see you filled with the peace of Christ like Thomas. Like a spouse returning home to a smothering embrace, multitudes of kisses and a warm meal, so also we are filled with God’s love in worship. We desire to see your lives filled with this Good News and the peace, hope and comfort which God grants therein. We desire to see you strengthened and prepared for battle, not lost in despair and hopelessness. We know that Satan is like a prowling lion seeking to devour us. As your shepherds we don't want to see anyone in his grip and worship helps us avoid that.
Thus, worship is not necessary for salvation just as kissing my wife is not necessary for marriage...but you'd better believe that it makes it a whole lot better! Also that she desires it (well, most of the time!) just as God desires our worship (all the time!)
So also, as we gather together and see you on Sunday mornings, we are all uplifted and encouraged in our own journey, knowing we are not alone. Thank you for being a member with us here at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Morrison, IL.