I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:1,2)
I wonder what comes to your mind when someone says to you, “Let’s go to church”? Excitement? Resistance? Apathy? Frustration? Joy? There are lots of reasons we can turn up to church on a Sunday morning, or other times during the week, but I wonder if joy is the strongest motivator? Or are we more moved by duty, habit or obligation instead? The thing is, we ought to be filled with joy when we gather with God’s people to celebrate his presence with us.
Psalm 122 is one of the ‘psalms of ascent’, used by the people of God as they travelled to Jerusalem. As they were pilgrims on the way to worship at the temple, they would typically use these psalms to worship God on their journey.
As Christians, we don’t need to travel to Jerusalem to worship, and we don’t need a temple to get close to God. Because of Jesus, we can each have access to God the Father freely and with confidence. We each have the presence of God living with us by his Holy Spirit. We don’t need to be pilgrims to a place of worship in order to worship properly. We can worship anytime anywhere because God’s Spirit is with us in every time and every place.
Yet we are still pilgrim people. We are on a journey, heading to the new heavens and the new earth that Jesus will bring when he returns. That place, where we will live with Jesus, is called in the book of Revelation the ‘new Jerusalem’. We don’t need to travel physically to Jerusalem, but spiritually we are on our way to Jerusalem to be with our Saviour and his people forever.
So, when we get together with other Christians, we have a taste of what is to come in the future. Going to church is actually a foretaste of heaven! Yes, even your church with all its quirks and complexities and difficult people. Joining with other Christians in worship is what we are called to do, and what we are travelling towards. So it should fill us with joy to get a little taste of heaven here on earth as we go to church with one another.
Why not take some time today to recognise how joyful it is that we can gather with other Christians and worship together. As you prepare to go to church next, why not ask God to give you a taste of heaven as your worship alongside other Christians, and fill you with joy as you do so.