I guess I’m a homebody to a fault. Home is where you find me except for an annual vacation away for a week or two and occasional weekend visits with friends and family within a several hour drive of where we live.
This may seem boring to those who hop on planes almost as much as they drive cars or who at the very least fly or drive somewhere multiple times annually if not monthly. We know plenty of people like that - adept at travel arrangements and throwing enough into a carry-on to look passable in virtually every situation and able to settle into and be at home in themselves wherever they are.
Conversely, the life path that found me didn’t include or require travel and, beyond pleasure trips, I’ve never dreamed about going to or working in faraway places. So home is where I am and I’m generally content with that, maybe too content at times.
I am writing this on the second of three successive weekends visiting friends and family. While I enjoy activities and company of these little trips, missing church for nearly a month of Sunday’s has oddly unnerved me.
Sunday church centers me. I’m talking about the totality of church - arriving, greeting, mingling in the hallway before filing in for the worship service that involves singing, a message, monthly communion, often followed by a post-service meeting to process the message.
This isn't about going to any church service but the service at the church where we belong, where many of those who also attend are close friends over the 15 or so years we’ve all belonged. Not so much friendship in the classic sense but fellowship characterized by our commonality in Christ along with at least a sense to having been called or drawn or committed to this particular community of faith.
I miss “our” church when we are elsewhere on Sundays, even when we attend a service where we are visiting. For me, our church home is home base for my faith in a way that is hard to understand and harder to explain.
See, God has formed our particular assembly of people in this particular venue. I would offer that we are a unique expression of Christ’s body unlike any other such gathering. We have a particular role suited for how the Lord has blended and shaped us with all the limitless particulars at his disposal.
Undeniably, God has such an affinity for bodies that he has deemed them sanctuaries of his own spiritual essence in each of us. Didn't our Messiah show up in a human body associated with particular places in a particular region on Earth?
Something too about places with God. His story take places in all kinds of places like Eden, Canaan, Egypt, the holy land, a vineyard, a shepherd’s field, a wheat field, Bethlehem, a manger, the temple, the upper room, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, and Golgotha.
And what about how the church unfolds in epistle letters written to particular gatherings of people known for the cities where they met like Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Sardis and Laodicea?
My attachment to and sense of missing these particular people and place, Grace Chapel, that I consider my/our church home has some basis beyond just me.
“...let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT)
Given the mentality of this time in history, we Christ-followers are like aliens when we are not with each other centering on our relationship with the Lord and each other. Recall Jesus declaring (boasting?) that we, his followers, will be known by our love for one another. (John 13:35). For that to be witnessed, we have to be seen together.
While I often bring myself before the Lord when I am detached from church home by reading and reflecting on God’s biblical word, praying, sharing about the Lord with my wife and other believers along the way, something about the gathering and the place and the longevity of belonging that is, as I earlier noted, mysterious to understand and harder to explain.