“For you have not come to what may be touched…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” – Hebrews 12:18, 22-24
Going to church. Attending worship. Sunday service. Worship Assembly. The Gathering. Church. No matter what you call the moment, it remains that we as Christians have this tradition of waking up on Sunday morning and going to be with other Christians and assemble together in God’s name. But what are we going to? What is it all about? Do we go just out of habit? Is it just a chance to get together? Are we going to hear a great praise band, or hear an inspiring message? What are we going to?
It’s interesting that the writer of Hebrews begins by pointing out that we are going to something that can not be touched. The specific reference in the passage is looking back to Sinai when the Israelites approached the mountain and were met with thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and fear of death. This was something they did not want to approach. Now, however, because of the work of Christ, God is approachable, he is near, the dividing wall has been torn down, and we as Christians should not fear approaching God in worship.
But the reference is more than that. When we gather with fellow believers on Sunday we are truly coming to something that can not be touched. We may be coming to a building, sitting in chairs or pews, holding the bread and wine of the Eucharist in our hands, but we are not coming to something that can be touched. When we gather on Sunday we are entering a spiritual reality. We are joining the assembly of the saints. We moving into the presence of God in a different way than happens on a typical daily basis. We are entering the New Jerusalem, the city of the Living God, the new Temple where God’s presence is manifest at every moment.
And in that Gathering, that assembly of the saints, we are not alone. God, the Creator, the Judge, the Supreme over all is there. The Angels, who are constantly around the throne singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty! Who was, and is, and is to come!” are gathered in chorus. Jesus, God made flesh, Immanuel, the mediator of the new covenant, who with his own blood made us righteous is standing beside the throne. The Spirit, who now dwells inside the hearts of believers, has brought us into this reality. And we are joined by the greater church; by those around the word who even possibly at this very moment are gathered together, as well as with the saints who have gone on before. Our loved ones and mentors and friends, who are no longer living here, but whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life and are waiting expectantly for us before the throne. We are in a Holy Gathering in which we participate and worship and rejoice now as a foretaste of the reality that one day soon will be. We gather as witnesses of the now and coming reign of God. And we are joined by all those who have longed for that days appearing.
The question is not, do we like the song service, is the preacher interesting, does the meditation before the Eucharist have meaning? The question is, do we understand and recognize the reality that we are participating in? When we gather together we are not coming to something that can be touched; we are coming to Mount Zion, to the city of the Living God. We are witnessing to that great gathering that we all long for around the throne in the New Heavens and New Earth. And we are joined by the saints around the world; those who are still alive and those who have gone on before. And we participate together as those who have longed to see the day approaching.
With all of that in mind…I can’t wait for Sunday!