It’s Almost Summertime!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
Summer is almost here! Many blessings grace our lives when the summer months arrive on our calendars. The demands on our time seem to be fewer and less urgent. We take vacations to exotic or restful places, get away from it all by going to those places where COVID restrictions have limited us in the last year, take trips so that we can take in the beauty of God’s creation, or simply go and devote time to renewing our relationships with friends and family. These are all worthy pursuits. We should renew our energy, expand our appreciation for the world around us, and build memories with loved ones.
There is nothing wrong with our summer activities. However, when we come to worship during the summer, we often miss seeing our brothers and sisters while they are away. We miss one another, and we frequently pray for everyone’s safe travel.
Have the COVID-related or summertime absences of other dear worshippers at Faith ever led you to think about what “church” is meant to be? Does it seem that something is missing from your church experience when other folks are away? Conversely, does something seem to be lacking in your life when you are away and unable to be with the rest of us on Saturday evening or Sunday morning?
My guess is that your answers to these questions are “yes.” You likely don’t have the same feeling about missing your grocery store or fellow shoppers at the mall like you miss being at church. That’s because church is different from any other place or institution.
There are business aspects to maintaining a congregation—we have a budget, pay bills, administer a staff, etc. However, these are necessary means to interact with the world outside the church. Unlike any modern commercial enterprise, the church has no product to sell nor service to provide.
A congregation is formed for two broad reasons: to build relationships with God, and to build relationships among God’s people. Everything a church offers falls under this relationship umbrella. Jesus established these reasons for the church to exist when he told us that the greatest of the commandments is to love God and to love one another. The loving relationship which is formed and deepened by our congregation each time we gather is the reason we feel emptiness during those times when we are apart. We simply wish to be physically close to the ones we love.
Please don’t hear me saying anything negative about taking vacations, enjoying the summer in healthy ways, or protecting yourself during a pandemic. Normal summer travel and other activities are refreshing for the soul. You should protect the bodily temple which God forms of your body. What I am saying is that we should gain an appreciation for the bonds church builds among us when we experience summertime or other absences.
Our appreciation for what church is meant to be, a place which builds bonds of love and peace among its people, brings about a response. Worship is central to our mutual experience but is not the only time your love for your sister or brother can be deepened. We also come together as we consider the word of God in Bible study; we pass on the wisdom of our years to our children in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and cross-generational activities; we express our joy for each other’s life as we share fellowship events; we bond with one another and with our neighbor as we work together in mission; and we serve the whole congregation in countless other ways.
This summer, of all summers, should be a wonder-filled time to recharge our spiritual batteries. At the same time, summer offers us a great chance to search our hearts and find God’s inspiration which will lead us to strengthen our bond of love with one another. As you relax in the sun, sit under a shade tree, or drive your golf ball down the fairway, I pray that you feel a gentle tug back—back to worship of God, the people you love, and the people who love you—to all the ways we gather as brothers and sisters at Faith Lutheran Church.
Yours in Christ,
Pr. Mark Behenna