Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
One of the most successful films in the theatres this fall is Sully, the true story of Chesley Sullenberger, the US Air pilot who successfully landed a damaged passenger plane on the icy Hudson river in January of 2009. The movie shows the history of a man who has flown so many missions that he is able to instinctively take the proper actions even when voices from the air traffic control tower were urging him to try other options. As a result, 155 lives were miraculously saved. Thousands of hours of flying and simulated flight transformed Captain Sullenberger into an extraordinary pilot.
Christian worship at its best brings about this kind of transformation into our hearts and lives. The liturgy or ‘service’ of coming into God’s presence together sends us through the (true) story of God’s holiness, our sinful shortcoming of that holiness, God’s offer of forgiveness and redemption through the cross, and our response of repentance and gratitude of this offer of sacrificial love on our behalf. Out of gratitude we allow the Holy Spirit to shape our hearts through preaching, prayer, sacraments, and close friendship with others to become people who instinctually serve others with the faith, hope, and love that God gives. We ‘act out’ or ‘practice’ what we believe we’re on earth for: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Over time, we instinctually become the people that we were created to be.
Christians live in a world where we’re frequently told that our chief purpose in life is to consume, or acquire, or ‘just have fun’. There are a number of things in life that are necessary, and perhaps even enjoyable. But we train our hearts and lives for worshipping God, in part because we want to be God’s ambassadors in a tough world when the chips are down – but mainly because it’s what we’re designed by God to be.
James K.A. Smith, a professor at Calvin College, puts it well in the title of his latest book: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. What spiritual habits are you developing? What do you love, and how is that forming you into the kind of person you are? Don’t let the good things in life take you away from the best – worshipping and serving the Triune, living Lord.