I recently had a conversation which reminded me how challenging life can be for anyone starting out on a new phase in his journey. A new migrant was relating to me how one of his children miss their previous home, and how that child misses the parents’ stations in society. I offered some words of comfort and encouragement but I suspect what was much more needed was simply a listening ear.
Being present, being available was almost as useful if not more useful, than any practical advice I may have had to offer.
This morning we had an in-house sermon from a leader, who gave a warm, touching and challenging message. I believe the message spoke to many hearts and the experience of being in the congregation among whom the message clearly resonated, was palpable although obviously intangible. If only more members were present to listen not just audibly but also with the heart.
Being present amongst the congregation in that sense, was priceless.
I have been brought up to be present in church at every Sunday. In my past life I often missed church on Sunday when I travelled for work, or I was simply too engrossed with the things of this world to think about being there as a member of the community of faith. That was something I regretted badly and while I love to use my Sundays to enjoy the many things this beautiful country has to offer, my upbringing sees me in church on almost every Sunday, safe for the once or twice a year when we are away for one reason or another, usually because we are out of town during a holiday season.
It feels great when I turn up on Sunday morning and see many faces – familiar as well as new ones – being in church. Being present in itself, can be an encouragement to others. It can build others up. I feel deflated when I notice many not there. I tell myself I am in church to worship God but I am also there as a member of the community of faith, which doesnt quite work if we all dont have a mutual commitment to each other as members of that community, that it will be our priority to be there.
In this busy and stressful world we live in, there will always be good reasons to take time off to de-stress and re-charge. If we cant do that however, by coming to the Lord and leave our cares with Him and wait on Him for our souls to be refreshed and revived, we are shortchanging ourselves. If we cant be encouraged by others’ presence and mutual commitment to the body, there is work to be done in refining our understanding and commitment to this body.
Sometimes we absolutely need to be away. Sometimes in a place like Australia when summer sees a lot of people travelling, perhaps on a de facto basis that commitment becomes released and the expectations may then have to be recalibrated. Maybe I am old schooled but I would have thought that is perhaps the only time we can safely be away and where our mutual commitments and obligations to the body may be parked aside, because our presence is no longer expected, where we can expect our fellow sojourners can be refreshed and revived in their travels also.
Maybe I need to calibrate my old schooled expectations to take into account the dynamism and subjectivity of each person or families’ circumstances. Maybe the body of Christ as a whole also need to calibrate that expectation as given the countless permutations of perceptions of what is important and what is beneficial in each person or family’s lives, there can no longer be the expectation that we will all be there on Sunday to renew our relationships and covenants with each other.
Maybe that mutuality is no longer reasonable.