On Monday, I wrote about shining my shoes. They looked good. They weren't like new but they also no longer looked like they were fit only for use in the garden. This morning, Thursday, as I was putting my shoes on, I thought to myself, "They are looking pretty rough again. They almost look like they could stand another polishing." With a shrug, I pulled them on, tied them and began to go about my day. Yet my thoughts kept returning to those shoes and the lesson that they were teaching me.
Shoes and worship - they are very similar. Like the shoes, we are used and abused by life. There are times when we are scuffed up pretty bad by what we are going through - sickness, disappointments, frustrations, misuse by those around us at work, school or home, anger, bitterness, death. There are some real reasons for our hearts and lives to show the wear and tear that we have gone through. Like my shoes, we begin to look pretty beaten and battered. Or maybe we aren't being "scuffed" up by anything in particular. Maybe just daily life scuffs us up - work, school, play, household chores, daily stuff that needs to be done or that we go through regularly. Nothing "major." No major crises. No real reason to be battered and beaten but just normal, daily, mundane events that cause us to show our wear and tear.Like my shoes, just going through each day.
In the end, we look at ourselves and see how beat up we look. (OK, maybe not physically like my shoes, but spiritually.) So what do we do? We attend worship. We go to church on Sunday morning. We hear the Word of God. We are assured that our sins are forgiven. We receive the Lord's Supper. And the Lord "polishes" us up. He cleans us up. He removes the dirt, the grim and the scuffs of sin. He makes us look new again. "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life." (Romans 6:4 ESV) "...and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds." (Ephesians 4:23 ESV) Made new, each and every time we come into the presence of God in worship, we are "polished," cleaned, made new. (I know that the analogy is imperfect and that you might be able to argue that we aren't just "polished" but are actually made new each time, but bear with me.)
We leave worship and go out into our daily lives. We go through much during the week. The wonder of worship fades into the background as we head to work or school and face the challenges of daily life. We are "scuffed" up by trials and tribulations. We are abused by temptation and torn up by sin. Even though we just attended worship, were just fed from Word and Sacrament, (made new, polished up, given that glorious shine of God) we begin to look worse for wear. Perhaps it is only a day or two and it looks like were weren't even "polished" up and made new. We look at ourselves and wonder, "What happened?"
That is why we return to worship week after week. It isn't because we have anything to offer to God. In fact, we come all beat up, broken, "unpolished" after the week of temptation, sin and tribulation that we have faced. We don't look new. We have been through "hell" in whatever we faced. And we look like. We act like it. We come because we need what God gives us in worship - His Word and Sacrament. He takes us lovingly in His hands and makes us new once again. He forgives our sins, feeds us from the Word, returns us to the waters of our Baptism and strengthens us through the Lord's Supper. He makes us new again.
And the cycle continues, week after week, month after month, year after year - for our entire life. Why do I go to worship? All I need to do is look at my shoes and it tells me why - I need what God has to offer there. I need His healing and forgiveness. I need all He is offering to me. Am I too beaten up? Has it been too long since I was there last? That doesn't matter to God. He will take me into His loving hands, wash me again in the waters of Baptism, clean me in the words of forgiveness, feed me from the Word and strengthen me with the Sacrament. Yes, I need what He does for me each week.
The shine is wearing off my shoes. They need to be polished again and again and again. So do I. I need to be made new in Christ. God invited me to worship. He invites you to worship. He invites us in order to make us new in Christ. How will you respond?