My family and I recently completed a road trip from Shreveport, Louisiana to Denver, Colorado and back. During the trip we saw a lot of churches, all different kinds and flavors. You name your interest; there was a church for you.
There were cowboy churches, Hispanic churches, Gospel churches, mega-churches, family churches, community churches, and on and on. Signs out front of most pronounced their "brand name" and their pastor's name — and occasionally a message or worship schedule. As we pulled into many of the towns, we observed billboards enticing potential "customers" to attend their Bible study or to "join us for fun, family-oriented worship!" While I can be pretty certain it was not their intent, the advertisements appeared to turn Jesus Christ into a commodity to be sold like the newest soft drink.
I'm not bashing anyone, and I'm sure the "cowboy churches" and the others I saw held many committed Christians who love the Lord. Certainly there is also much good fruit born from this love of Christ. But I couldn't help thinking that the people and their "worship leaders" had fallen into the trap of allowing people to conform themselves to each other rather than Christ. Having a virtually endless variety of worship styles and an inexhaustible supply of pastors, their worship, being without the Eucharist, had become more sugar and air than spiritual nutrition.
Now, I like marshmallows — they are sweet and light and fun to eat. But I cannot make a meal of them because they have very little nutritional value. The truth is that marshmallows cannot satisfy my need for real food, and real food is necessary for my survival.
So it is with worship. It is true that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus' name, He is there also, and so in that respect, the "marshmallow churches" have Jesus among them in their worship. But there is a grand difference between Jesus present in Spirit and Jesus present in the Flesh.
More to the point, it is the Eucharist that we must hunger for, not the fluffy sweetness of non-Eucharistic worship. To fully and properly worship Christ, we must have the Eucharist, which is His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
The Catechism underscores this: "The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.' 'The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch'" (#1324).
No marshmallows here, but good, soul-sticking, spiritual food. We are nourished by the Eucharist, literally, fed by Christ Himself. There is no need to settle for marshmallows, no matter how sweet they taste, when good solid food is available. We need not go hungry.
In the end, we have to ask: do we love Jesus, or do we love the sweetness? If we become enamored with the sweetness, we will never get closer to Jesus than greeting card sentimentality. But if we love Jesus Christ, then we must seek Him out and, through the workings of grace by the Spirit in our lives, allow ourselves to be conformed to Him rather than vice versa.
The Lord's Table has open seating. May I save you a seat this Sunday?