I’m home again this Sunday. More sickness. Which means I’m writing down everything on my mind. Forgive the disparate nature of it all.
I’ve been trying to get to the nub of why missing church hurts so badly. Is it because I don’t get to hear the sermon? Or the Sunday school teaching? Well, yes. But no, because I can listen to those later in the week when the recordings become available. Is it because I feel cooped up and want to see people and have some social time? Well, yes. But no, because I get to see people and get out other days of the week.
What I miss most is hearing, receiving, and singing together. When we hear the Word preached together, it’s different than me downloading some killer sermon to listen to by myself. When we sing songs together, it’s different than when I find the latest or best hymn album to listen to in my kitchen. It’s valuable to do those things at home, but it’s not the same as being with God’s people on Sunday.
When we gather as God’s people and sing a song to the Lord and about the Lord from our heart, with other Christians singing the same song, and the same words, from their hearts, we are being united. Every Sunday morning God is answering Jesus’ prayer that we would be one as he and the Father are one. When we submit ourselves fully to the faithfully preached Word of God we are being made one as shoulder to shoulder our brothers and sisters put themselves under that same Word. That’s what I miss so much.
I’m never quite as aware of my frailty as on a Sunday when I’m engulfed in the singing of his people. My faith won’t survive without the faithful saints singing next to me. It’s true that “you can have all this world, give me Jesus..” as long as when we say “Jesus” we mean his body, too. I can’t live without his people. Sundays at home with sick kids are God’s good plan to remind me of this even more.
I’ve spent the better part of the past year thinking about our union with Christ. It has become to me the sweetest of all truth in the universe. I was reading through the sermon text for today, while at home, wanting to keep on the same page as everyone. I couldn’t get past the first two verses.
“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)
So much to take it. But I was strengthened by remembering that it’s God’s Spirit that puts Jesus (and us) in the wilderness, and that we can be in the wilderness and not fear, because Jesus already did it for us. He did it perfectly. He made a path through. The Israelites couldn’t do it, I can’t do it on my own. But because of him, we can walk through the wilderness and resist temptation. He did it for me and he leads me in paths of goodness and faithfulness right through the desert and dry land.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what goodness looks like. Is it a good attitude? Is it doing good things? Can the world engage in goodness? What is Christian goodness? If I get the laundry done, how is it distinctly Christian goodness–doesn’t everybody have to do that? This is another area where thinking about my union with Christ has made life all the sweeter.
There is a Christian way to do the laundry, and make supper, and tend the garden, and go to work, and clean the house. And that is to do them all in Christ and for Christ, with his garments of holiness round about us. It’s so easy to think that our Christian selves are the selves that do “ministry.” The Christian part of us is the part that goes to church, or does Bible study, or disciples a younger person, or helps in Sunday school, or has a quiet time. But because of Christ everything we do is a Christian thing. And I’ve been reveling in baking bread while united to Christ and seated in the heavenly places.
There’s this cute hashtag: #baketheworldabetterplace. I love it. I love it because, in Christ, it can be true. In Christ, we can bake the world better. In Christ, baking really can be a way to befriend faithfulness. I can love my children with the love of Christ by baking. I can put my hands to do good works in and for Christ by baking. I can teach about him through baking; I can love Christ with baking; I can enjoy Christ in baking.
Baking in and of itself is a common good–it provides food, it is enjoyable. But baking while belonging to Christ is something else entirely. The metaphor (bread is food that sustains) and reality (Christ is the bread of life that sustains) meet spectacularly when baking as a Christian. Doing good works in Jesus’ name is transformative, both to the “good work” and to the person doing them and the person receiving them.
I mention all this baking hubbub, not to get you to start baking, which is completely unnecessary to your life as a Christian. But to ask you, what are you doing everyday that you can see in a new light because of your union with Christ. The laundry (making dirty things clean)? Making supper? Reading books? Accounting? Science experiments? You are doing those things in Christ. They belong to him and are for him. What metaphors are brought to fullness in your doing them?
When we’re in Christ, nothing happens apart from him. Not our relationships with other Christians, or our relationships with non-Christians, or our interactions with the stuff in the world (like flour, clothing, tools, tv). We don’t invite Christ into those things. If we’re in him and he’s in us, it’s a reality that he’s there. But our awareness of him is what needs heightened. Which is part of why we need each other, Christ’s body. To keep each other remembering and reminded.
If you were at church today, I hope you know the gift you were given. And if you were at home or the hospital or somewhere else, I hope you know Christ as the one who blazed a trail through the wilderness for us.