I didn’t make it to church last Sunday. I know, I know, not ideal. I’m a pastor, for one thing. I have an entire chapter on the importance of weekly worship in my upcoming book, for another. I probably miss Sunday worship once a year, and that’s almost always because one of the kids has come down with some bug or other that’s too nasty to share.
But sometimes getting to church just can’t happen. I’m guessing it’s happened for you, too. You had surgery or the car wouldn’t start, you traveled for work or there was a bad storm. In our house, weekly worship is the rule, but like any rule, there are occasional exceptions that prove it.
I’m in the tiny percentage of women who have very long, very intense pre-labor. It means I tend to have very short active labor, which is fantastic, but it also means I’m in a lot of pain and discomfort for weeks leading up to delivery. Sitting still is hard. Leaving the house is hard. Holding up my end of a conversation is hard. Being with people is hard. Sleeping is hard. It’s all… hard.
Luckily I’d saved up a couple of vacation Sundays, so when the boys went to church last week–including my husband, who was preaching–I listened to my body, stayed in my pajamas, and stood in the kitchen, swaying to worship music and the internal rhythms of the beginnings of the birth drumbeats, fighting for patience with what might go on for days or even weeks yet.
It helps that this is baby #3. With baby #1, I thought I was going crazy until my doctor monitored some of the pre-labor contractions for intensity and her jaw dropped. “They’ve been this strong for days?” she asked. “Oh you poor, poor dear.” Validation, people.
I needed to stay home, but my heart ached to be with the people of God in the sanctuary of God, to sing and pray and lift up my hands with my congregation.
Stuck in the liminal space of already-and-not-yet with this baby’s birth, I did what I often do when I’m homebound with illness or injury – I went online.
Say what you want about Twitter (and really, there’s plenty to say about it – it can be a real storm of outrage and tribalism), but in isolated seasons it can be a gift to reach out to a wide array of Christian friends and writers and mentors.
The responses came quickly, and my eyes began to fill with tears.
An evangelical Catholic friend wrote of his priest reminding them that morning that their purpose, their identity rested in the Lord. “That’s where we get our worth,” he said, pointing to the crucifix above the altar. “By following Jesus in service to others.”
The editor of a beautiful literary newsletter in Tennessee wrote of a Scripture reader holding back emotion while reading about the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and her tears.
A friend in St. Louis sent a video of her husband dedicating an infant to the Lord, rocking and swaying to comfort the baby, a child of refugee parents.
A woman in New Mexico sent a clip of her son playing the flute with a sanctuary orchestra led by someone who once played in the New York Philharmonic.
An author in Illinois wrote of a sermon tying the love of Jesus with the justice of Jesus that moved her to her core.
One of the awesome students from my own youth group chimed in that the youth director asked the high schoolers to tell him what God had been teaching each of them–and then to back it up with Scripture.
People shared hymns that had moved them, choruses that had filled them. An old seminary friend shared a sermon link promising a Samwise Gamgee impersonation.
You guys, the body of Christ is beautiful and deep and wide and alive. Across denominations and traditions in my little corner of the Twittersphere, people were worshiping this Sunday. As they shared about the work God was doing in St. Louis, in Brooklyn, in Tennessee, in New Mexico, in Illinois, in California, I felt my heart expand with joy.
Worship goes on. With us, without us, in us, through us, among us. Jesus is alive and in FourSquare churches and Catholic cathedrals and Presbyterian sanctuaries and Quaker meeting houses, in every culture and color and corner of the globe he is worshiped and praised and adored.
I hated missing communal worship with my congregation, but I’m so thankful for those who brought it to me in my kitchen this week, pajamas and all.
How beautiful is the body of Christ?
What was the best part of worship for you this past Sunday?