We haven't attended church since January 2, making this our fourth Sunday away. Don't worry--we're not apostate, nor are we disenchanted with our church. In fact, when our pastor and his wife called an hour ago to say how much they miss us, I felt a wave of homesickness. I long for church!
When I saw my doctor to follow up on my hospitalization for pneumonia this past August, she made it clear that she didn't want me out in cold weather, even to see her. (I'm not so sure John should be out either, actually.) So, until the mercury rises above 35, I'm consigned to our apartment building.
John's been out on errands twice since January 2, and after this last one, he returned looking very refreshed. I watched him unload a bag from CVS, proudly displaying his acquisitions. At that point, I could see the emotional benefits of simply changing scenery! Maybe physical benefits too. At any rate, he looked happy and rejuvenated, making me realize that getting out of the apartment really makes a huge difference.
Getting out is important, but even more important is worshiping with other Christians. Someone on Facebook recently commented to me that I don't need to go to a building to worship God, and (to an extent) I agree with that statement. Assuredly, I've been consistent in Bible reading/study and prayer, listening to Christian radio, downloading sermons from our church website, and letting the Lord deal with me to conform me to His holiness. But I'm missing, as is John, the connection with other Christians that Scripture says is so central to functioning in His kingdom.
Corporate worship allows Christ's body to identify its various members, seeing how each member functions uniquely. The woman who teaches pre-K Sunday School has served for over 30 years acquainting children with Bible stories. The man who plays hymns on his harmonica opens the building each Sunday, always eager to talk of God's goodness. The high school girl who puts together retreats for other teenage girls always astounds me with her love for Christ and her intense desire to see her friends get excited about Him. Our Associate Pastor's in-laws, who say little, silently sat in our living room last Sunday when we needed comfort.
There are many others in the church that deserve mention. Some serve quite visibly, leading praise songs, teaching Sunday School, or heading up high profile ministries such as Vacation Bible School and the Food Pantry. Others serve more quietly in the sound room, cleaning the toilets, or visiting the local nursing home. But we all fit together, united by our love for Jesus and our desire to proclaim Him to a world infected by sin. Our excitement for Him accelerates as we come together around His Word.
In short, we love and need each other.
This fourth Sunday away from church, I don't feel guilt for staying home. But I do feel a longing to be with our church family. And as I write this post, I'm thankful that the Lord is using this wretched winter to renew my appreciation for our church. Isn't He good?