This morning was the second week since the local COVID restrictions have been lifted and we are now permitted to gather on Sunday’s without capacity limitations. Last week felt awkward and strange; my seat neighbor was close enough to touch, the row in front of me encroached on my leg room in a vaguely familiar way. But this week, it was full of spectacular joy and it felt more like home.
The anxiety inside of me wondered how our return to church would look and how it would feel. Will people return? Rumors swirled in the summer of 2020 that followers of Jesus were either digging in deeper or walking away. Would my church family walk away? Do they know they are missed?
Was it a year of imprisonment? Did we feel imprisoned and held away from family and connection? Can we emphasize with Paul, in some small way? At times, Paul could not meet with his students he could only encourage them on from afar, the major reason we have the Pauline epistles. Can you relate to that? Is that how’s it’s been for you?
Colossians 2: 1-3
2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Knitted together in love. Ahh, this is my language! I’m a lover of people and I want to connect with people about 90% of my waking life. Now that we’ve “returned” it feels like I’m in census mode. I’m looking for the familiar faces mentally checking for my people. But also being careful to look for the missing pieces, who’s not here is just as important as who is here. My mind stirs: Why did they leave? Can we get them back? Did they leave our church for another or did they leave a life of following Jesus? My desire for my church family is that they will find a deeper relationship with Jesus. We have a big church and one of my friends once told me that’s why she loved it, ‘you can come in and go out without anyone knowing you’re there‘; which isn’t really the point! It’s more than just being seen or just being known, I want my family to live out what Paul suggests …to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.
So today as we stood and sang, I snapped a quick photo. Overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness and by the family standing and signing around me. I’m sure glad my family is back, let’s go find those that we’re missing and sit with them to understand why. Hurry let’s get on with it! We have work to do so let’s get to it!