I had lunch today with a long-time friend who had come up because of the death of another Christian brother. As we broke bread, actually chips and salsa, I shared some thoughts that had been running through my head for several months regarding “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” (sorry, I think in KJV). Of course, the current situation with the COVID virus and prohibitions on public gatherings has sparked more than one social media conflagration about whether churches should hold services or not. And I’ll sheepishly confess I have been caught up in the machinations, going so saw far as to use the term whack-a-doodle. Yeah, that was mature of me. Anyway….
My thoughts really have little or nothing to do with whether my local congregation will hold worship services this Sunday or next. Instead, they go back to an article I read by a minister some months ago. In it, he discusses Hebrews 10:25. He commented that even when he took his family on vacation he made sure that they were in a worship service somewhere. While there is nothing wrong with this, I’m not convinced that’s exactly what the writer of Hebrews had in mind.
I attend worship services weekly at my local church. We have numbers of gifted teachers who spend hours in preparation for their classes and deliver lessons that uplift and edify. My pastor’s sermons are biblically sound, culturally relevant, and frequently entertaining. The music pastor and his wife are the most musically gifted couple I have ever met, and they lead a choir and band that I would stack up against anyone. The services are powerful and moving. But for me, the most spiritually nourishing time, if you’ll pardon the pun, is the fellowship supper we share on Wednesday evenings.
Turning to scripture for a moment, consider the Acts 2:46 description of the gatherings of the first believers. They met daily at the Temple, probably observing the Jewish times of prayer, and in homes sharing meals with gladness. Far from the austere stereotype many have of believers, these first century brothers and sisters delighted in each other’s company. This, likewise, is how I delight in the Wednesday evening fellowship suppers.
I like seeing Michelle’s beautiful and welcoming smile when my kiddos and I walk in.
I enjoy verbal jousting with Wayne, the guy who keeps the kitchen humming. His dad Marvin and my grandfather were friends. In fact, his dad was instrumental in my grandfather hearing and responding to the gospel. Rita, his sister-in-law, and Pam work the serving window. Pam’s daughter Autumn was my work study when she was eighteen or nineteen. She was and is THE gold standard for being a conscientious young adult. This year I had her daughter in one of my college classes. She is a sweetheart like her mom.
I enjoy chatting with Lisa. We’ve known each other for about ever. Her dad was a minister with my dad. Back in the day, I served with her late husband as his music pastor. Our sons are about the same age and friends. We share memories, the struggles of single parenting, and hopes for our children’s futures over loaded baked potatoes or meatloaf.
I’ve known Johnathan, our young adult pastor, his entire life. His dad and my Uncle Allen were extremely close growing up, and over the last four years, Johnathan and I have grown close. He’s my accountability partner. Since I am a single adult Christian, I hold myself accountable to him, and he inserts humor when he checks on me. His wife Tammie is mission focused! I like to pick at her, telling her that she’s one of only two people in this world I’m afraid of. (My Aunt Susie is the other.)
I enjoy chatting with David, a new friend, who should have his own food-on-the-go blog. The man knows food and how to enjoy life! He knows sorrow, too, a type of sorrow we share.
Finally, my pastor and his wife eat with the congregation. He’s not a celebrity; he’s one of us.
Lest it seem I’m viewing life through stained glass colored lenses, I’m not buds with everyone. Sometimes we have disagreements. (Remember my whack-a-doodle comment. Yes, I’ve repented for it.) We may disagree, but we’re still family. We love each other, even when we don’t like each other so much.
THIS is “assembling together.” This is communion and community. This is where iron sharpens iron. It is also where wounds are bound and healing takes place. This is where we share our joys and sorrows.
Though it is important to spend time together in corporate worship expression, it is equally and maybe more important to share our lives intimately with each other, to strengthen and support each other, “especially as the Day approaches.”
Oh and yeah, pork chops with gravy are my favorite.