Have you ever been a “greeter” at your church, or been welcomed by an effective greeter into a worship service? While there are different names for these people who seek to make everyone feel welcome in a church service, those who serve others in this way might stand in a parking lot, open the door, help someone find a good seat, or just greet others with a big smile.
No one should feel unwelcome in the house of the Lord due to their appearance, clothing, culture, speech, or even unfamiliarity with a particular church building. In fact, based on Jesus’ pattern of who He welcomed, those who look less like “religious people” should perhaps be welcomed even more heartily (and intentionally) than those who “fit in” to a mold of false religiosity.
Even more than that, though, when those entering the church building are excited to be in the house of the Lord with other believers, and those welcoming them feel the same way, it’s exciting. In light of the explanation of the word “Shout” (from verse 1 of this Psalm, mentioned in the previous article) as a military command or “call to action”, I imagine excited worshipers yelling across the parking lot to each other on a Sunday morning, “Let’s get in there and worship God!”
Let’s take a look at verse 4 of Psalm 100.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalms 100:4 NIV
Now, I’m not saying that we have to have a brass band playing on the roof of the church building (although I have heard that P.H. Welshimer, a former pastor of the congregation I currently serve with, did that some decades ago). However, if we aren’t always thankful and ready to praise God when we enter into the church building for a worship service, let’s ask ourselves why: Are there days when going to church seems like a chore? This introspection is not meant to judge or condemn, but rather to identify and understand those reasons, so that we may see what we can do to make positive changes.
Maybe you don’t like someone that you know you’ll see at church, or you don’t like something about the service. Are those earthly comforts more important than a chance to thank and praise God? When we remember that praise to God is not about our preferences, we have a chance to put things into perspective. As the hymn says,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
https://hymnary.org/text/o_soul_are_you_weary_and_troubled (emphasis added)
Maybe you have been going through some real struggles, whether with your health, your family, your school, your work, or even your spiritual life. Can you still find something to thank God for, even in those times in the valley? I’m certain that it’s OK to be sad, frustrated, angry, and hurt while we’re in church, yet we can still thank and praise God for what He has done and who He is in those times. Praise to God is not limited by our pain.
Maybe you have a lot of distractions, like needing to talk with someone else or wanting to go get some coffee. Maybe you owe someone money, and want to settle that debt before you go home from church. (Imagine the effort required to bring small children to church…or maybe you don’t have to imagine, if that is a weekly challenge for you.) I think that the fellowship of the family of God in a church building is a great time to do a lot of things, but if they take us away from our primary purpose in meeting together in the name of Jesus Christ, have we gotten our priorities wrong? Praise to God must be our priority.
So, if your worship to God is being constrained by your preferences, your pain, or your priorities, I hope that you will be encouraged by the psalmist’s instructions here today. True, heartfelt worship of the God of the universe can take place despite these obstacles, but it often requires a decision on our part (and sometimes, a mighty force of our will, combined with God’s help) to overcome them.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for November 27, 2022
- The Lookout, November 27, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, Volume 2, Walter D. Zorn, © 2004, College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, MO.