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by Chris Jacobsen
I’m missing church today.
I’m driving my family back from a two-week vacation to visit family in the Midwest. A fortieth wedding anniversary celebration, multiple family pictures, and a four-and-a-half-year-old with the stomach flu, and now our vacation is almost complete. Some would say that with young kids, this is less of a “vacation” and more of a “trip.”
So with twelve hours in the car today, I will not be attending a worship service. True, I could listen to praise music on the radio, and I’m sure I could find any number of preachers to listen to during the day. I could roll down the windows and breathe in the fresh air of God’s creation. I will undoubtedly watch enviously out the window as people worship God on the golf course. I’ve heard a great many people tell me that they don’t have to worship God in a church, that they can worship God by taking a walk, or spending time with family, or by watching Joel Osteen on TV. Why should they go to a church full of people that are worse sinners than they are?
I suppose in some ways they are not wrong…if God is the God of everything, then I can worship God in the car just as I can worship God in my church, right?
But today I am truly missing church. I miss the community of people that I worship with on a weekly basis. Worshipping alongside of other sinners reminds me of the myriad ways that God is at work in life. When I gather with this group of people, I’m surrounded by those who are retired, those who are satisfied with their work, those who hate their jobs, and those who just wish they could find a job. I’m with people who have kids, people who don’t have kids, people who are proud of their kids, and people whose kids have caused them a good deal of grief. I’m surrounded by those who are rejoicing, and with those who are mourning. Those who are celebrating, and those who are grieving. I’m reminded of mortality, and of God’s promised resurrection.
When I miss church, I miss out on this community, this reflection of God’s true nature as three-in-one. I miss these other reminders of God’s grace, and I miss a community that I’m praying for, and that is praying for me.
I know that people have been deeply hurt by churches, and that for many, stepping into a church is very hard. My own church is not perfect. I’ve never been in a church that was perfect. But when I worship with this imperfect community, with these other sinners, I’m drawn into all the seasons of life.
Today, I’m missing church.
Chris Jacobsen pastors Abundant Life Reformed Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey.