Hearing the Word Preached
In the Clausing house these days we have been trying to get Calvin to sit with us in Sunday worship. It is tricky. He is the only child his age in the church service (he is really one of the youngest children in our church in Edinburgh), and that can make it distracting for the people around us. For the most part, he does a great job. However, there are times when every three minutes I am standing up and walking out with him. Then we finish a worship service on Sunday and I have heard about half of the sermon and that in disjointed short bursts, the thought can come to me, 'Why are we doing this?'
Teaching a child the things of God through having them in worship on Sunday mornings is hard work. It would be a lot easier for me, Taryn, and Calvin if we just dropped in him an age appropriate class and we went to church. There isn't anything inherently sinful about doing that either. Yet the question that must be asked is: Is that the best for Calvin, Taryn, or me?
This brings me to my current reading. I have been reading Chad van Dixhoorn's latest book God's Ambassador's. In it Van Dixhoorn works through the Westminster Assembly's view of the preachers and the preaching of the Word of God. One of my favorite chapters is on preaching as a means of grace. Van Dixhoorn considers the documents of the Westminster Divines and shows that though they valued private Scripture reading and reading sermons at home, they were almost unanimous in talking about the importance of being in worship on a Sunday and hearing your pastor open the Word of God. Van Dixhoorn demonstrates the importance of being present in your church for the sermon. The preaching of the Word of God is important for all present from the youngest to the oldest. The Lord promises to use the preached Word in a special way; a way distinct from the other forms of receiving the Word.
Training Calvin to sit in a worship service is difficult work. Training any three year old to sit in a worship service is hard work. But the work of discipleship has never been easy. It requires diligence and steadfastness. However, I rest on the promise that the Lord will use this time for our good and his glory. Bavinck put it best:
Whatever influence there may be from the word in print or spoken that reaches us from elsewhere, it cannot be compared with the blessing there is for heart and life, family and society, in the word spoken to us in the gatherings of the congregation. Here alone do we find the ministry of God's word and the sealing of his covenant. Here, Christ himself lives in our midst and works by his Spirit. Here we taste the communion of saints, the forgiving of sins, and the principle of eternal life. The Sabbath is the best best of days; no other day is like it. And the church is the meeting of God with his people; no other gathering can take its place or compensate for its loss.
Training our children to be in worship is hard, but there is no replacement for the Word preached. So, on Sunday when Calvin is crawling under chairs during the sermon and I am wondering, 'Is this worth it?', the only answer I can give at that moment is 'Yes. A thousand times, Yes!'