I just missed my first Sunday because of work (the farmer’s market I told you about). I have actually missed a couple of Sundays before this because of other reasons- so this last one really hurt. To make it right, I had decided to make a different day my ‘God day, my rest day’. That was to be yesterday. I watched the recorded service (which was outstanding as usual), but still didn’t feel right. I watched my pastor speak with his usual unlimited passion for Christ and realized how much I missed his friendly face. Up close and personal. I missed his hug and his hearty welcome. I also realized that I missed the fellowship of church. Celebrating God alone is just not the same. It is as if we were created to be TOGETHER, not apart. I can and do praise God everyday. (How can I not? The wonder of God is everywhere.) But there is just something different about corporate worship. Know what I miss the most about church? All those smiling and friendly smiles and calls of, “Hey, Susan, what’s up?” along with those great, hearty hugs. I love talking to my pastors and friends afterward. I miss raising my hands up in worship and praise during the music part of the service. I miss praying corporately to God to be among us through the Holy Spirit. I miss feeling the Holy Spirit wash like waves over and through our bodies. There is just nothing like that in this world. That is the moment of true belonging. That is the moment where we are existing, where we are being, exactly what we were created to be- together in the love and grace of God.
Watching a sermon online afterwards just doesn’t cut it.
I have believed (and still do) that the meaning of ‘church’ is the corporate Body of all believers in the world- no matter what crevice they may be in. WE are all the Body of Christ. WE are the church Christ will come to redeem forever. Church is NOT a building, a denomination or a set of doctrines. It is all of us together in spirit. No mountain or mighty river can separate us from God or from each other. So if you are alone somewhere out there without a church building near you, you are STILL in the true church- in the Body of Christ. Mere faith is all you need to qualify for membership.
HOWEVER, since I found a living, breathing church full of genuine love, I have amended my prior beliefs. While you are still part of the corporate Body of Christ, you just aren’t as happy as within a real crowd of Jesus lovers. You really aren’t. When and how else can you feel the Holy Spirit ripple through the crowd? When can you share in that powerful feeling of everyone praying to God together? When can you sense the pleasure of God looking down upon his people who are worshiping his name? Where else can you know that people will forgive your stupidity- if not by choice, then through the fear of God? Where else are you greeted with such genuine smiles? When are you hugged by near strangers- just because you are their adopted sister or brother in Christ? No, we are made to be together with one another. We were never meant to be alone.
I, of all people, should already know this. When I was walking through my personal desert for about twenty years, did I not come to know what loneliness meant? How completely unnatural it felt? Our souls shrivel up when we are not connected meaningfully to other souls. It suffers when there are no other souls who love it. We will all have our deserts- not even Jesus avoided the desert. It is most definitely a part of the human journey, that desert. But the desert can’t last forever lest we should die the soulful death. I was once parched with thirst- almost dead in my suffering. Finding my church (and by that, I mean the people in the church), made me fresh again. My soul was restored in faithfulness and gladness. My thirst disappeared and had been forgotten.
Until this Sunday. I felt it niggling at the edge of my sight. I felt it lurking there. As I watched brilliant Christian Lindbeck speak his brilliant thoughts, the thirst did not slack. “It’s not enough,” whispered my spirit, “It’s not enough.”
God didn’t say to keep the Sabbath for his sake. It wasn’t only to honor him with our time. Think about it. The command is to rest, not worship. We always worship (or should, anyway). We are to rest- to rest in God. To rejuvenate US. God’s command to rest one day a week was to feed us, not him. WE need the Sabbath, not God. And we need others with us on the Sabbath. We were not meant to be alone. No. Someday, we will all always be together. No more divisions between God and man. No more walls- neither physical nor spiritual- will divide us from one another. That craving desire to simply ‘be’ within each other will finally be satisfied. We will never feel vulnerable or afraid to know another human being again. No, someday, we will truly know each other and take delight in each others unique being. There will be no jealously or shame – no fear that someone might not like us for who we ‘really’ are. I am sure, very sure, that we are meant to worship corporately. Not alone. We can, of course, be alone in our worship- but it is not the intended goal. Our souls yearn for love- we must love and be loved.
It’s not worth it to miss church regularly for any reason. The only one who gets hurt is you. Truly, nothing on this earth or in this temporary state of human life can fill you like worshiping God with your sisters and brothers in Christ can. Jesus assured us that heaven is within our midst if we but had the eyes to see it. I have seen it. I still see it. And it is at church during worship. For those of you who have not yet found your church family, I do pray that you will. You may believe that being alone in your worship is enough. But it is not. Keep looking. Have faith. Someday God will deliver you from that lonely desert if you ask it of him. And when he does, don’t throw it away because you will be throwing away your bit of heaven on this earth. Nothing, certainly not money, is worth that.