Nothing is more distracting for this pastor than the sight of an empty pew.My heart and mind wander as I struggle to elaborate on the notes before me:
Where are the Jones, today? I wonder if Mrs. Jones’ sciatica is giving her trouble this morning?
Oh, and I see Mr. Carter is here alone today. I wonder if everything is okay there? I should see about Mrs. Carter this week.
Now that I think about it, only a few of our young families are here this morning. I wonder if there was a party last night? Maybe they all got together to watch the game?
Oh, man. Where was I? What was I meaning to say?
Children sometimes cry in the middle of worship. The parents of these children often approach me after service to apologize. They say how sorry they are for their child’s behavior and any disruption it may caused. My reply is often the same: “There is no need to apologize. I would much rather hear them cry than not be able to hear them at all.”
Behavior (of either a child or an adult) is not the greatest source of disruption or distraction. Absence and failure to participate in communal worship is the greatest source of distraction, at least for this preacher.
One’s participation in the life of a community of faith is meaningful. Everyone has something to offer; everyone has a role to play; everyone has a place in the kingdom of God. Sunday morning worship is simply a reflection of something much broader, bigger, ultimate. One’s presence and participation on Sunday morning (and in every aspect of the communal life) matters. Their absence is felt. They are missed.
Quite simply, your community of faith is not everything it could or should be when you are not there.
Maybe you are tired. Maybe you are going through a hard time. Maybe you do not have it all together right now. Maybe you are working through something. Maybe you feel a little broken today.
Come! Especially now…and bring all of that with you. Bring everything you are feeling and everything you are experiencing! Bring it to the pew so you can put it to the people – and they will lift you up. Bring it to the pew so you can put it on the altar – and He will lift you up.
Because your absence will always be more for the community to bear than any burden you may have to share.