How good, Lord, to be here! Your glory fills the night;
Your face and garments, like the sun, Shine with unborrowed light. (CW 95)
“How good, Lord, to be here!” I’ll admit, if you were to look at my list of favorite hymns, this one would not crack the top ten…not because it isn’t a solid hymn. It’s just that there are others that impact me on a spiritual level more deeply. I’ll also admit that I’m aware this hymn is about the time Jesus’ disciples Peter, James, and John spent on the Mount of Transfiguration with our Lord and Moses and Elijah. “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” Peter said to Jesus, serving as the inspiration for this hymn (Matthew 17:4). And yet, this hymn has been playing in my mind the last hour or so following a private communion I had with a couple of our members.
Following that private service, one of them commented: “It is good to be here.” She’s thankful that St. Peter’s is livestreaming and recording services for people to watch during the safer-at-home order. But there is something missing from not being in church, not being together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Her faith echoed these words from the Psalms:
Psalm 26:8 I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.
Psalm 122:1 I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Yes, Lord, how good it is to be in your house, the place where your glory dwells; the place where your adopted us into your family through the waters of baptism; the place where we were instructed, encouraged, and edified in our faith; the place where the Word of God is read, taught, and proclaimed; the place where we gather with our Christian family and encourage one another. Yes, Lord, how good it is to be in your house.
One other blessing we receive in the house of the Lord: A personal assurance of Christ’s forgiveness and a reminder of his sacrifice as we receive his body and blood together with the bread and wine in Holy Communion. Yesterday I saw a fellow pastor, who serves a large WELS congregation in Wisconsin, had the opportunity to commune approximately 200 of his members…in one day! Under normal circumstances, no one would bat an eye at that number for a church that size. At this time, when no more than 10 people are allowed to gather in one place at one time, that means that each service had only 9 people present (the 10th was the pastor). I’ll let you do the math on how many short services this brother in the ministry held for his members. These 200 Christians all confessed by their presence: How good, Lord, to be here!