Christ is present for you in the church. Where Christ is present there is the church. It's not a symbol of His love or grace. It's not a contrived feeling of comfort or happiness. It's real. In Christ, God loves you and dwells with you. He is present to forgive you. He is present to give you His righteousness and take away your sin. Along the way, a lot of other stuff will pry its way into your life in the church, but none of it will take away Christ for you. None of it will take away the gifts He gives and the promises He makes to you.
On Saturday night, you'll stay out with your friends until the early morning, but you won't care because it's fun. They won't understand why you get up early on Sunday morning. At best, you'll be embarrassed to tell them you have to go to church, but more than likely you won't mention it. Christ will still be present to forgive you. This is Jesus' promise to you, and it will never change.
You'll occasionally get bored. You'll probably wish you were sleeping instead of sitting in an uncomfortable seat. You'll completely space out and think about stuff that you shouldn't think about during church. You'll count the minutes that the service starts to cut into your weekend plans and steal a glance at the girl in the next row who you think is pretty. You'll mindlessly repeat the parts of the service that are said every week without a second thought, or any thought at all for that matter. Christ is still present to give you the gifts of His mercy and grace because those gifts aren't dependent on the things you do.
At some point, you'll probably feel like you'd rather have nothing to do with it. People that you trust will lie to you and betray you. They will frustrate you. You'll get angry, and you might even feel justified about it. Maybe you'll think that you aren't good enough—God couldn't possibly love you! You'll be overwhelmed by shame, and it'll make you want to walk out on it all. Even in this, Christ is present. In church the gifts of His death and resurrection are delivered to you. His mercy and grace are for you. All of Christ's righteousness is given to you for free, without work. Your sin is taken away, and you can't have it back. It has been crucified with Christ. Nothing you do, and nothing that is done to you can change that.
Your baptism saves you because it's a baptism into Christ. You don't have to try to clean yourself up because you've already been washed by the water and the Word. You've been marked with the cross of Christ, buried with Him, and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever. All of your sin is forgiven, you are made completely righteous, and you will be resurrected with Him to newness of life. The Lord's Supper delivers the Body and Blood of Christ to you for the forgiveness of your sins. Your pastor speaks the Word of Christ for you, "Be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven." Christ is present, and nothing will change that.
I want you to know this more than anything else I could ever tell you because you are my child, and I love you. I can't be the perfect picture of this love, but I promise I will point you to the place you will always find it. The love of Christ for you will always be found in church. When you're born in a few months, I'll bring you there as often as possible.
Chris Vecera is a New Testament Theology Teacher at Lutheran High School in Orange County California.
Created: May 18th, 2016