It’s the dog days of summer. You have your shoulder operated on, go on vacation, help your child move home from grad school, and before you know it you realize it’s been a while since you’ve been to church. You’ve gone maybe two or three times over the past two months, and one of those times involved a nasty fall going up a flight of stairs. This is after going practically every Sunday for the better part of 50 years. What happens when you discover that you haven’t missed it?
You miss the people. You miss seeing those with whom you have shared your life, the wonderful people who have loved and cared for your kids almost as much as you have all these years. You miss the fellowship. But you find that you really don’t miss…church.
For one thing, you discover that having a full two day weekend is nice. You can get away overnight some place; get some things done around the house. The weekend doesn’t seem quite so manic, so fleeting, and as a consequence, Mondays aren’t so dreadful.
But, of course, there’s guilt, the linchpin that holds life together. You know that you should be at church. It’s not good for your spiritual health to miss the assembly, the gathering of like minds. The dangers are formidable and profound. You can become indifferent, estranged from other Christians, adrift.
No one from church has seemed to notice your absence, no one has called. This is one of either the benefits or curses of attending a larger congregation…anonymity. But even that doesn’t bother you because it saves you from having to explain to someone that you’ve basically lost your feel for church.
One of the reasons is that you know exactly what will happen every week. It’s not like there will be anything different this Sunday from last. After 50 years you’ve heard every sermon 16 times. You do miss the music since it’s the only thing that ever stirs anything like real emotion. You also miss the huge stain glass mural that dominates the architecture. Whenever your mind begins to drift, which is every two minutes, you stare at the thing. You look into the face of Jesus who looms over you and you think about your savior and what it means to be a disciple. You wonder what he must be thinking right now as he peaks inside the million churches across America gathering to worship him. Is he as mystified by the unrelenting boredom as I am?
But soon, summer and its more hectic schedule will be over, and you will run out of plausible excuses for not being there. You will get with the program. “Do not forsake the gathering together”, the early Christians warned. You will take it to heart. There will be plenty of time for staring into the stain glassed window come Fall.