A Boy’s Song And The Lord’s Supper
Psalm 84:1-4, 10-12
I can’t resist sharing it with you…
Early one morning the Edington family sat about the breakfast table. After the initial greetings of the morning, we all fell silent for a few moments. I suppose we were still trying to shake off the lingering effects of the night’s sleep. Well, those few moments of silence were too much for my son, John David. Understand, please, that from the time he was just a tot, he has felt some strange obligation to enlighten our mealtimes—and he does that regularly! On this particular occasion he took it upon himself to rouse us from our reverie by bursting into song at ear-shattering volume. He sang:
I love to come to my church,
My church, my church,
I love to come to my church,
We learn of Jesus here.
When I recovered from my initial shock, I listened to what he was singing, and a sermon was born…
You see, I do love to come to “my” church, or any church for that matter. I love just to be inside a church. My family has often honored me in that regard, when, in our travels, I have dragged them off to one church or another, in one place or another. I love to be inside a church. I like a church even when it’s empty, though I confess that I prefer to see it full, especially when I’m standing in the pulpit! I love to be inside a church. And that is why I can think of nothing worse than missing worship or being prevented from coming to worship.
That was the mood of the man who wrote the 84th Psalm. He envied other people their privilege of going to church. Now, envy is regarded as being one of the “seven deadly sins,” but what this Psalmist felt is what I would call a Christian kind of “envy.” He envied churchgoers. Apparently, this Psalmist couldn’t go to church—for what reason we do not know—and that fact hurt him deeply. Listen to his passionate prayer:
“How lovely is thy dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, faints
for the courts of the Lord.”
The Psalmist wanted to go to church as desperately as a man dying of thirst wants a drink of water. And he was downright envious of those who could go to church.
First, he envied them their security in God.
When he wrote these words, “how the sparrow finds a home at thy altar, 0 Lord God of hosts,” he was simply saying that he envied those people who were completely at home in the house of the Lord.
One reason that I entered the ministry was that I love the church and its worship and wanted to be part of it in my life. I grew up with it. It’s a part of me—and I wanted to be part of it. I have never lost that sense of privilege. I never receive my paycheck without wondering in amazement that a person should be paid for doing the one thing in life he most wants to do.
The church is home to me—as it is to any person who truly loves it. It was home to Jesus. You see that so clearly in the incident where the 12-year-old Jesus was inadvertently left behind when his parents departed from Jerusalem. After a frantic search, they located Him in the temple. And what did Jesus say? He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” That’s what made the church home to Jesus—it was His Father’s house, the place of God’s presence.
“How lovely is thy dwelling place?’ wrote the Psalmist. Home. Home is a secure place. Out in the world we may feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, attacked. But once we walk through the doors of home we know that we are in a secure place where we are loved and wanted and accepted. Or at least it should be. We don’t have much security in our world. And that’s why I am determined that this church, large though it may be, shall be a place where you can know that you are wanted, you are important, you are needed, you are loved. For here we shall be embraced by the love of God in Jesus Christ. We shall know ourselves to be accepted by that love, secured by it. And knowing that we are loved like that, we are to be envied.
Secondly, the Psalmist envies churchgoers their strength in God.
He writes: “Blessed are those whose strength is in thee.” Those words remind me of a conversation I had with a man who had just come through a series of crushing personal crises: business reverses, illness, the death of his wife. All of it together nearly destroyed him. But a friend had said to him in the midst of it all: “Whatever you do, don’t withdraw into a shell. You may feel like it but don’t do it. Keep seeing your friends and keep going to church.” Though it was difficult to do, he followed that advice—and he discovered the matchless strength of human friendship and a divine relationship through the church.
Such strength is ours when we join the crowds that approach the sanctuary on Sunday morning, because the experience of joining other Christians in worship strengthens our faith. You hear it said that churches are half-empty today because people don’t believe in God. I believe exactly the opposite is true. I believe that people have lost their faith in God because they stopped going to church. They are like live coals removed from a fireplace and left on the hearth where they become cold and spiritually dead. They need to be restored to the warm strengthening, uplifting, empowering fellowship of the church. As one of our own members wrote to me recently: “I want my church with the beauty of its worship, the vitality of its teaching, the inspiration of its example, and the joy of its fellowship to keep me dreaming dreams I can never forget and to show me stars I never saw before.” That’s a beautiful way to express what a strengthening force the church can be in a human life.
“I love to come to my church” the words of a little boy’s song that pierced his father’s heart. For I do love to come to my church. And that is never more true than when the Table is set. It is not a large meal—scarcely enough to feed a flock of sparrows. But we have to remember that Jesus Himself is the host. He invites us to dine with Him. He presides at the Table. And when He takes a small meal in His hands, why it becomes a feast for thousands. It becomes a satisfying meal that meets the deepest hunger of our souls. For at this Table, Jesus Christ offers us strength and security in God. He offers us Himself. If we receive Him in faith, then we are of all people the most to be envied…