There was a cartoon that I saw a few years ago where the husband was complaining to his wife that he did not feel like going to church. He told her that he never enjoyed the service, the music was too loud, the sermons were not that good and nobody liked him. Her calm reply was that he had to go because he was the pastor. We laugh at the pastor who does not feel like going to church, but somewhere in recent history, the need to feel like worship has become the determining factor on Sunday morning for many Christians to not attend worship. Though some are unable to come due to work, illness, or other reasons not of their choosing, many today see worship as just one of many choices.
Worshipping together offers a unique way to come into the presence of God and to praise the God who called all of creation into being. Luther regarded prayer, public praise and thanksgiving to God as one of the “marks of the church.” The hymns he wrote for worship often reflected Christmas and Easter joy. Worship made of the congregation a Mundhaus; literally, a “mouth-house,” as people raised their voices in song, petition and praise.
In the past, certain days of the year were declared Holy Days of Obligation, days that all Christians would attend worship. These were days like Good Friday and Maundy Thursday, Christmas and Easter. It was understood that Christians would attend worship or face the consequences (which might mean even jail time.) No! I am not saying that we should return to these unchristian practices of forcing people to worship, but I believe the concept of obligation needs to be returned to our faith lives.
Obligation does not mean that the pastor enforces attendance at worship. To tell the truth, when people tell me their excuses why they missed worship, it is not my job to judge (or give them an official excuse), but the One who they missed is the one they need to talk to. Obligation is not being forced to do something, but according to the dictionary, it is the action of obligating oneself to a course of action (as by a promise or a vow.) When we were baptized or confirmed, we willingly took on the obligation of regular worship with the faith community. Can’t I worship by myself out on the golf course (or insert any other location including with your eyes closed in bed)? NO! Which worship service am I obligated to go to? ALL OF THEM! What if… No. How about…No.
Why should we be obligated to the One who loved us so much that He died for us, paying for our sins with His own blood on the cross. Did He feel like dying? Or out of love, did He obligate himself to save us. He didn’t break his promise. Don’t break yours. Worship!