DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? PROBABLY NOT.
Walk around any bookstore and chances are better than even that you will find myriad books in the self-help section that promise you all sorts of peace if you but read and follow that particular author's advice.
Chances are also better than even that if you walk around that same bookstore, you might even find 'self-help' books in the 'Religion' or 'Christianity' sections with, again, plenty of overt or implied guarantees that following the practices or mindset of the author will help you get over whatever hump might be holding you back.
While well-intentioned, I do believe that one of the more unintended consequences of the printing press and all offspring of the same over the last 500 or so years (and having been rapidly sped up through mass communication mediums such as the radio, television, and internet) has been the loss of the centrality of the community of faith - the local church - when it comes to the soul-forming practice of worshiping with one another on a weekly basis. (Not to mention the unintended consequences of the downplaying of the role small groups - Sunday school, bible study, prayer groups, etc. - in helping us continue in the process of being disciples of Jesus Christ.)
In last week's Wednesday email, I wrote about the comfort of dining with family as a way of tangibly being at home in the body of Christ, no matter in what context we might find ourselves, if we remember the Lord's table is one at which we are guests with the church universal and eternal. To continue in that vein with respect to the importance of gathering together for worship and study, the stark reality is that no two people have had the exact same experience of God's presence in their lives, even as God is unchanging. Part of the essence of gathering together in community for worship and study is to acknowledge that since everyone hears God differently, God has something to say to us through the presence, actions, and words of others.
As you go into the back half of this week, let me encourage you to consider, or consider once again, how much more rich our faith is when we, to quote scripture, "lean not on our own understanding." Over the last 22 days, I have been extremely blessed to discover God in new ways through the people of First United Methodist Church - West Monroe who I thank for being so open about their faith and their God.
Oh, and one other thing - those times where you may feel as though it is no big deal to miss a worship service, Sunday school class, prayer group, or bible study? Please do not underestimate the reality that God may intend to use your presence to share divine grace and love in ways no one else can, because no one else knows God the way you know God!
Grace and Peace,