From the Pastor….

I had just gone as a wet-behind-the-ears associate minister to a church, when someone handed me a piece of paper on which he had written a story that I guess he thought I might use as a sermon illustration some day. That was forty-six years ago, and it’s still appropriate.

A pastor was concerned that one of his members had simply quit coming to church. When the pastor went to see the man, he was invited inside to sit by the fire. After exchanging pleasantries, the minister got to the point. He missed seeing this man at the services and hoped he would come back. The man responded very candidly that he had just gotten tired of getting up and going to the church. Besides, he found that he could worship just fine by himself. The pastor didn’t say anything. He just sat quietly as they both stared into the fire. But after a few moments, he leaned over and took the poker from the hearth. He drew out one glowing ember from the coals onto the bricks. At first it shone brightly, but soon began to fade and eventually turned to lifeless ash.

I doubt that pastor had to say anything in order to make his point. But I will. Over the past fifteen months, some of us have found that we can worship just fine by ourselves. At first, we did so out of necessity. We could do it on our own schedule. We could block out distractions. We could participate in the singing as much or as little as we chose without anyone judging us. And, frankly, whether we worshiped at all or not, no one else knew. There was a certain level of comfort in all that.

What may also have occurred, especially for the more introverted (or misanthropic) among us, was that we did not have to expend energy dealing with people. Maybe that was a welcome change too.

But we all know that there is no substitute for the collective worship of God with people whom we love and who love us. We might have been able to keep our spiritual lives going for a while by ourselves, but, like that burning coal, we’ll soon get cold.

Fortunately, the factors that made our distancing necessary are beginning to disappear. Especially for those who have been fully vaccinated, true fellowship, both physical and spiritual, is again a possibility. And if we avoid it we are missing out on something truly special.

Brené Brown wrote:

We are in a spiritual crisis, and the key to building a true belonging practice is maintaining our belief in inextricable human connection. That connection — the spirit that flows between us and every other human in the world — is not something that can be broken; however, our belief in the connection is constantly tested and repeatedly severed.

I firmly believe in that “inextricable human connection.” And I have found that one of the most important places for me to maintain that connection is through my family of faith at Parkway. That connection has been “constantly tested and repeatedly severed” in the lives of many during the pandemic. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to strengthen those connections through our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me was said by a man in a town from which I had moved a couple of years before. He said, “I didn’t know how much I missed you until I saw you again.” I have found that to be true in my relationship with so many of you who have joined together for outside worship. And I’ve missed those of you who haven’t been able to come out just as much. Let’s do something about that.