Today’s scripture: Psalm 132 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Linda Bernabie):

Psalm 132 speaks to the building of a permanent Temple in Zion (Jerusalem), to house and protect the Ark of the Covenant. (The Ark was a box which, among other things, housed the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were etched.) The Temple was also a place of worship. Even in ancient times, humanity needed a place of prayer and worship.

In today’s world there are countless religions. Some denominational, some non-denominational, each with various beliefs and dogmas. Almost without exception, each has some kind of space (church, synagogue, mosque, a “Chrystal Cathedral,” or maybe a store front) for prayer, worship, study, and rituals. In our Christian world, our gathering place is a church building.

Many Christians don’t go to church. Some don’t attend because they are trapped in the confines of a hospital bed, they must work Sundays, or maybe they can’t afford the gas to attend. Some would rather attend the Church of the Holy Internet, the TV Tabernacle, or celebrate the Sabbath with sleep. Many Christians only go to church for hatching, matching, or dispatching!

Some of my “unchurched friends” have asked me, “Can I go to heaven, if I don’t go church? I say YES! God most certainly loves and cares for the needs of all of us, including the unchurched.

Going to church is God’s work, and salvation isn’t something we earn by “works.” We can never “work” or perform “good deeds” to get to heaven. Christ did the “work” for us, when he died on the cross. We can only be saved by God’s grace, when we place our faith in Christ’s act of supreme forgiveness.

The Bible lets us know that it is a good idea to go to church, but it does not condemn us for not going. You do not lose your salvation when you do not go to church. Conversely, you cannot “earn” your salvation by attending church. Going to church won’t make you a Christian, anymore than going to a football game will make you a quarterback.

All that said, I attend church because:

. . . It helps me to nourish my soul through hymns, classes, small group discussions, and listening to sermons.

. . . I can connect with like-minded people and establish Christ-centered friendships.

. . . When I go to church, I am setting a great example to my friends, family, and daughter.

. . . I struggle with sin, and church helps me to remain focused and disciplined in my everyday life.

. . . as an added bonus, studies show that going to church boosts the immune system, decreases blood pressure, and may add as much three years to our lives (according to T. M. Luhrmann, professor of anthropology at Stanford University).

Thought for the day: Before church, speak to God. During the service, let God speak to you. After the service, speak to one another (author unknown).

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.