We are called to gather
The Rev. Justin Hoye, pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City, Mo.: Wrong? No. Missing out? Yes. In each of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 2:17 ; Matthew 9:13 ; Luke 5:32), Jesus announces that he has come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous. Those who are healthy have no need of a savior. Houses of worship provide a gathering for those who are sick, wounded and openly in need of forgiveness, nourishment and direction.
In addition, a Catholic professes that in liturgical action we encounter Jesus Christ in a way we do not on our own. Our public worship — as the Body of Christ — is a participation in the words and actions of our eternal high priest, Jesus. Our Scriptures proclaim his life, and our words and actions make present his saving words and actions.
Public worship, then, is an immersion in the saving work of Jesus Christ. The joining of sinners into communion is a sacred action that assists our growth in holiness and acknowledges our belief that Jesus is present to us when we gather in his name. This is why the author of Hebrews encourages the faithful to “not stay away from the assembly” (Hebrews 10:25) because a disciple of Jesus needs the encouragement of others.
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While we are always free to worship God in our homes, it is no substitute for the collective gathering of those whom Jesus has called into communion: sinners.
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The Rev. Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City: Churches and temples aren’t the exclusive residence for hypocrites. Hypocrites are everywhere; there is even a bit of one in me. I preach living standards and moral codes that at times aren’t represented in my words and actions. I try to be a good person and live according to the book but at times fall short. I am a student of life, not a graduate of life. I am in the process of learning how to be the best I can be but still far from the finish line, and I’m OK with the way I am, a work in progress.
Just as a student who hasn’t learned to read or write will learn, day by day, how to command a sizable vocabulary and write proficiently, we human beings are learning how to be unconditionally loving and treat all people the way we want to be treated. Children are made aware of their misspellings and errors in grammar, learn from their mistakes and advance. When we are aware of our actions and the effect they have on others, we can learn from our mistakes and advance.
The true value of a church, however, is joining together with other like souls and sharing the journey. Have sympathy for those who talk the loudest about their goodness, or your lack of, for they are farthest from the goal.