What do we believe about Attending Church?

“I find God on my motorcycle,” is what he said to me in response to my question about how he interacted with God after telling me that he was a “very spiritual person.” I sort of wondered how fast he thought God was running away from him that he needed to catch up to the Almighty with a motorcycle, or if he had stared too long and hard at Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” (which is a great read, by the way).

But that isn’t to say I don’t understand the concept. We all have moments outside of Sunday morning that seem worshipful, that feel spiritual, and that actually make us aware of God’s gifts for us. To be honest, some times, those “outside of Sunday morning” moments might *feel*even more spiritual than slogging through the liturgy (especially if the person next to you is especially mumbly and emotionally inexpressive), listening to a sermon, and singing songs you probably would never sing on your own. Maybe we wonder if God has just gotten ahead of us, and we need to jump on our motorcycles and catch up to Him.
Problem is, motorcycles are made for one, maybe two people. Three at maximum if you have a rockin’ side car. But church is supposed to feel more like a bus, or rather, a ship. In fact, in traditional church architecture, the place were people sit is called the “nave” – which is the place on a ship where travelers live and find shelter. (Motorcycles also don’t provide much in the way of shelter.) Our picture of church, by extension, should be much more “Carnival Cruise Lines” than “Harley Davidson”.
Lutherans believe that our experience of church is one in which God is providing us a service. The German word that gets translated as “church service” is “Gottesdienst”, meaning “God service”. The whole idea is that you’re going on a long committed trip with this group of people. And on your cruiseliner, your cabin service is provided by — GOD. Seriously, it’s like the Holy Spirit is serving you up spiritual Mai Tai’s — but it’s even better, because instead of a fruity drink with a paper umbrella, you’re getting the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ delivered to you in, with, and under bread and wine. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism frames the 3rd commandment (Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy) this way: “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.” We believe that you actually get God’s Word delivered in a specific way in preaching, even if you don’t like the sermon! (Hey, I try, but . . .)
All that said, there is plenty of time for excursions on your cruise. The boat docks and you’re able to leave the ship, get on your motorcycle, and see the sights – but if you forget to come back to the boat, you could run into some problems. The writer of the Hebrews puts it this way: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV) In fact, you should probably take your motorcycle out every now and then, even if it is just to see if you can get some more people onboard who might be interested in taking a cruise.
This Sunday, we’re going to be inundated with a bunch of motorcycle people. They aren’t necessarily going to see the value in our “S.S. University Lutheran” cruiseliner at first, but maybe if we show them how much fun we’re having aboard our ship, they’ll consider Who is running the boat.