Painting by Ron DiCianni
On the other hand, those same two weeks felt like a very long time in the context of the disconnect I had experienced with my church family. God has promised us, "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:19-20 Oh what a comfort to know that all we have to do is beckon, and God is there assuring us over and over and over again that He loves us and will always give us everything we need! Lord have mercy on me, a poor, miserable sinner. Try to imagine how it would feel if, after having received everything we needed from our parents, knew that we knew it all, bid them a dismissive goodbye and then heard the door shut behind us -- NEVER to be opened again. How would we handle it? Would we become hardened in our hearts and pretend that we didn't feel abandoned, even though WE were the ones who walked away? Would we want so desperately to be assured that we were welcome anytime but be afraid to confess that we actually need to be loved? Could we even define "hope?"
There were legitimate reasons for my lack of attendance at church the last two Sundays, but those reasons didn't lessen the emptiness I was feeling from being away from that gathering. Yes, God has been with me, and no, I hadn't rejected Him ... well ... except in my sinful thoughts, words and deeds. Yes, I can and do still pray when I'm not in church. Yes, God still loves me when I am not able to be with the others who agree ("agree" - that is to say unity in Christ; that thing which makes us a Christian family). My pastor reminds us from time to time that we are cracked vessels. When we believers gather together in God's house to confess our sins and receive absolution through His Word and Sacrament, we come away from His banquet table joyous -- we are vessels full to the brim. We may gather for a few minutes out in front of the church to visit with each other, but then as we turn to walk toward our cars, we begin to hear the notes of the music turn to a minor key. Within moments of leaving that unity, we, cracked vessels, begin to leak the joy of Christ's salvation. We begin feeling the bombardment of the "stuff" of our earthly lives, and we begin to pay more attention to that stuff and less attention to The One who gives us everything. EVERYTHING. Call me a princess -- I want it ALL. I want to be full to the brim, always assured that I am a child of The Heavenly Father, and I am redeemed by His Son, Jesus Christ. I want to experience the same joy that Simeon experienced as he held the Christ Child and said, "Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people." I want to walk away from God's table knowing that I can pass from this earthly life at any moment with the pure joy of knowing that I will see Him in glory and live eternally just as He promises me ... week after week after week.