Our Gathering God


05, August, 2020Posted by :Zach Ellsworth

This past Sunday morning unfolded the same way every Sunday morning has for the past several weeks.

Within 20 minutes, I’m distracted by my toddler. Within 30 minutes, I’m standing in the lobby with him to (hopefully) keep him from distracting anyone else.

And I’m happy to do it. I’m happy to spend time with my rambunctious little boy on Sunday mornings in our church lobby. But I’ve wondered if I’d be willing to do it if it wasn’t my job. In fact, I asked Hanna this very question following another typical Sunday morning. Would we stay home on Sundays if I wasn’t a pastor? Wouldn’t it be easier to corral the boys around a screen for a live feed? Or maybe we would let them play in another room while we “did church”. That would definitely be easier. And we would be sparing others from our noise. Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbors?

It’s easy to think this way. It’s especially easy for me to think this way at noon on Sunday. But I’m a pastor—it is part of my job to be at church on Sunday.

But for just about everyone else who reads this, that isn’t the case. Nobody is paying you to show up. So why bother? Why go through the trouble of going to church when it’d be so much easier to stay home?

Here are two things that help me find joy in Sunday morning gatherings. They keep me from showing up “because it’s my job”, and I hope they’ll encourage you to show up, too, whether or not you have kids!

First, a distracted Sunday morning is a lot less problematic when it isn’t carrying the weight of my walk with Christ. If I’m relying on what I receive on Sundays to carry me through the week, then I will be very troubled when something gets in the way. If you starve your soul all week, missing your meal on Sunday is a big deal. But if you regularly turn to God’s Word, you can afford to “miss” a sermon. Sure, it isn’t ideal; it’s good to hear Ben preach after he’s studied a particular passage or topic. But a half-hour sermon isn’t meant to be the only time or way that you receive God’s Word. I say this as a pastor who loves to preach and is fully convinced of the power of proclaiming God’s Word—you need more than one sermon a week.

Psalm 42 gives us the familiar passage and picture,

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.”

If your soul pants for God, you won’t let yourself go from Sunday to Sunday without seeking him—without turning to God in prayer and in his Word. And if you make a habit of turning to God, your Sunday mornings will become more fruitful, whether or not they’re distracted!

Second—and more importantly—God is a God who gathers. Ezekiel 36 is often associated with what is referred to as the new covenant. It’s God’s promise to do a new thing for his people. Here we find Old Testament promises that Christ fulfills.

Through Christ: 

• God’s Spirit is poured out and dwells within us (Ezekiel 36:27; John 16:7; Acts 2:4),
• Our hearts are made new (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:17),
• We are cleansed from our uncleanness (Ezekiel 36:25, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

Furthermore, Ezekiel 36:24 says, “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.”

This also happens through Christ.

In John 11, we find this truth proclaimed in the New Testament. The religious leaders are conspiring to kill Jesus, and one of the men says that it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish. To which, John adds, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:51–52).

Week by week, I can both witness and participate in God’s great work of gathering into one his children who are scattered abroad. And while it is only a blurry reflection of what will one day be undeniably true, it is still a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark world.

Yes, I want to hear a God’s Word preached. Yes, I don’t want to be a distraction to others. Yes, it would be easier to stay home. But more than any of those things, it is my joy and privilege to see God’s work of gathering his flock together firsthand. The power of the gospel is displayed when men and women from all walks of life come together to praise our Lord and King. And no matter how hard we try, it can’t be replicated on a screen.

Distractions might tempt you to stay home. The fact that you can find God’s Word taught in many wonderful online resources might tempt you to say home. But we most not neglect to gather together as is the habit of some. Our God is a God who gathers.