In the Great Congregation

Then I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
—Psalm 35:18

"I can commune with God much better alone in nature than I can in a church with all those hypocrites." I can't tell you the number of times I've heard that one. And indeed it's nice to be alone. In nature, even. But to use one's own moral superiority as an excuse not to attend congregational worship is the height of arrogance, and displays the very hypocrisy decried in the opening statement.

Worship with others is not really optional. In worship, we're exposed to others' ideas. We're led to realize our own wrongdoings—things that, left to our own devices, we might not realize are harmful to ourselves or other people. Our spirits are lifted up in song and prayer. We get to be around people we want to be around, and those we might otherwise avoid. All of these things are necessary for the person of faith... or the person seeking faith. Otherwise we remain simultaneously unsupported and unchallenged. The former leads to discouragement; the latter to stagnation.

Only the already perfect can be excused from "the great congregation." But then again, wouldn't an important part of human perfection be the willingness to share one's wondrousness with the hoi polloi?

Thank you, Lord, for calling your people out of the world and out of nature and into a church. Thank you even more for the opportunities you give me to praise you in the midst of and as a part of the body of Christ. Amen.