I have a confession to make, a couple of weeks ago I really didn’t want to got to church. I hadn’t slept well Saturday night, and when I did fall asleep (after reading for a couple of hours in the middle of the night) I had an unsettling dream, not the kind that is frightening, but the kind that causes you to wake up angry and agitated ( I dreamt my dog was dognapped, and I was out for justice Liam Neeson style). The weather was changing and every old injury in my body (I’ve broken both ankles, and most of my fingers; had a major hip reconstruction, including osteoplasty; had a major shoulder injury including multiple broken bones from a deck collapse; I played a contact sport, often on artificial turf, at a serious level and skied 30+ days a year into my late 30s and have all of the attendant aches a pain that go with that) ached. My wife, who is chronically all, wasn’t well enough to go with me, and had missed the past few weeks as well, and I was profoundly sad about that. Owing to a misspent youth, sometimes my ears ring, and they had been ringing nonstop since Thursday evening and as a result I had had a low grade headache for days. In other words I was feeling as bad as I thought I possibly could, I was feeling sorry for myself, and when my alarm went off I really, really just wanted to turn the alarm off, pull the covers up and stay in bed.
But I’m the pastor, so I sighed, shut off my alarm, levered myself out of bed and headed to the shower. I got dressed, took my dog outside, fed him, then headed to my study to make final preparations before heading to the church. And when I sat down in my chair, I felt like it was the end of a long day, not 6:45 in the morning.
But I’m the pastor, so I went about the business of making a final pass through my preaching notes and making my other preparations for the worship service. I also prayed about it and asked a friend to pray for me as well (you can always count on pastor friends to be up early on Sunday morning). And as my watch showed 8:35, time to get up from My desk and head toward the door, I still didn’t feel like going to church.
But I’m the pastor so I packed up my work bag, drank a glass of water and took my vitamins just like every Sunday, put on my rain coat and headed out the door. And all the way to the church I didn’t want to go, I just wanted to go home and get back in bed.
But I’m he pastor, and it is up to me to open the church building. So I drove to the church and went about the business of opening curtains, turning on lights, making coffee, checking the audio equipment and putting out the temporary banners and welcome matts. And having done that I walked back to my study, and when I sat down in my desk chair to go over my notes and to pray I collapsed into it like it was the end of a long day, not the start of one. Even after praying, I didn’t feel much like getting up, but I’m the pastor and it was nearly the time when people would start to arrive for Sunday School, so I got up with a groan and walked out to the sanctuary to greet people as they came in. (And I’d point out at this junction that faithfulness means doing things, including being obedient, even when you don’t feel like it, but that is another post.)
But then something odd happened, the church began to come into the building; that is the people who make up the church began to arrive at the church building. And their love for God, one another and, not incidentally, me was palpable. And I immediately began to feel better.
We all know that the New Testament is chock full of one another commands. Things like:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. – Romans 12:10
A new commandment I (Jesus) give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13:34
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.- 1 Peter 4:8
And there are a lot more of them, by my count 59, including love one another well over a dozen times.
Usually when we think about the one anothers we think of what me must do. And that is appropriate; we need to love, encourage, build up, show honor to (and all of the rest) our brothers and sisters in Christ. But sometime we are the others who desperately need to be loved, encouraged, built up, and honored. No matter how doctrinally sound or spiritually mature you may be, some days you feel more acutely the effects of living in a fallen world. And on those days you really need the body of Christ.
Most often when I hear or read Hebrews 10:24-25 quoted it is used as part of an argument that attendance at a local church is required (by the way I think that is absolutely true, but that is a different post), but the spot light in these verses is not on the what (church attendance) but the why.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25
When we meet we encourage each other, and we stir one another up to greater obedience and love. And sometimes we are the stirrer, and sometimes we are the stirree.
We need the body, just as the body needs us. And sometimes we are net givers to other believers, and sometimes we are net receivers. And to put it plainly, when you least feel like going to church, that is exactly when you most need to go to be among the saints.