The door is open for worship. We park the car and get the kids out of their seats—perhaps even help them move a little faster toward the door. On the way in, we grab a bulletin and sit down. So we’ve come into the Lord’s house again.
Why did we come? After the first hymn, we get one answer. It comes in language so familiar that we sometimes say it without thinking. We say together with others, “Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions. . . .” The words might change a little from Sunday to Sunday, but the point is always the same.
We come to confess our sins. We might think of the past week and recall the angry words we’ve spoken or the failure to help someone else—even our spouses and children. The list is long for each of us; we have “done what is evil and failed to do what is good.”
We have come to worship, but we are not worthy. When the psalmist asks “Who may stand in his holy place?” his answer is “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3,4). We know the truth—we are sinners unworthy to stand before the Lord in his house with others. We are sinners. We “deserve [God’s] punishment both now and in eternity.”
Why come? Why not stay home? At least there we don’t have to face this harsh reality. We come because of what happens next. We hear the message of forgiveness, “God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The worship leader announces, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Forgiveness. Absolution from God himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A sweet assurance that God will not mete out the punishment we deserve. Instead, he has placed our sins on his Son, Jesus. Then burdened with all our sins, Jesus suffered what we should suffer. We are forgiven, declared pure in heart and with clean hands.
Such a seemingly simple thing happens in the Lord’s house every time we walk through the doors. It’s why we come. The weekly turmoil fades when we are assured that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. We are ready then to stand in God’s holy place to worship and later to leave worship ready to do better as his dear children.