I skipped church this past Sunday! Well, actually, I had a vacation day to take and so took the Sunday off to rest and recover after a busy Advent and Christmastime. It turned out that my middle son needed a ride to the train depot in St. Paul, and so I was out and about on Sunday morning and planned to run a couple of errands. I shared with him that I would have breakfast out somewhere in St. Paul and take my time reading the Sunday paper, then stop by a book store to get a new wall calendar (50% off) for our kitchen, and finally stop to purchase a new pair of gloves, hopefully at a winter discount rate. He said, "Oh I really hope you run into a parishioner so that you can surprise them and ask them why they're not at church!" Yeah, I thought that would be fun, except they'd then want to ask me the same thing!
It was weird for me, since I am so tied into the rhythm of weekly worship, to be out and about driving across the Twin Cities on a Sunday morning. I felt strange and out of place. Out of my element. Typically, if I have a vacation Sunday, I'm traveling somewhere. It is unusual to just be at home with nothing much to do on a weekend, at least for me. The restaurant was fairly busy and I wondered why aren't all these people in worship somewhere! (Those are the kinds of thoughts off-duty pastors tend to ponder.) While the waitress filled up my coffee cup, my phone alarm went off to tell me the 8 o'clock service had just begun - so I said a little prayer for you (that's a reference to an old Dione Warwick song). Yes, I gave a brief prayer for the good folks at Family of Christ attending early service.
Next I went to Barnes and Noble and was surprised how many people were out shopping on a Sunday morning, even though I was one of them. Just to ease my guilty conscience, I browsed the religious section, then went over to the calendars and found a good one on Minnesota's natural wonders. My phone alarm had sounded off again to tell me the 9:15 service was in session. So I said a little prayer again, for all the folks at the middle service.
My last errand was to go get some new gloves since my old pair had developed a tear. The store hadn't even opened their doors yet, so I stood with a small crowd out in the cold waiting for a worker to unlock the door. This time, I just assumed these folks had all gone to early church somewhere, and were now here returning Christmas presents. But standing outside, with a group of about ten people, none of us talking to each other; well, that was such a weird feeling. Of course I know and realize that there are many activities going on Sunday mornings for all the many varieties of people in our culture, but I am so often connected in worship each week, that I forget there are people who often have nothing else to do on a Sunday morning except while away their time, run errands, or stand around waiting for a store to open up its doors.
As I made my purchase, the alarm on my phone went off a third time-the 10:45 service had just begun, so I said another prayer. But I'll admit that I missed actually being at worship as it is such a renewing part of my week. I was all the poorer for having missed out. As a pastor, I certainly spend a good bit of my time and energy preparing for worship, then leading worship. So I really notice when I miss it. However I realize that you, as parishioners, lead busy lives, and your weekends are often full with a whole assortment of interesting things happening. Still, I can't help but leave you with this encouragement -- and take it from a Pastor who was playing hooky from church this past week, and realized how much he missed it! --be sure to attend whenever you can, and share in an hour of worship to the Lord. It is so good for the soul! You will receive the blessings that come with connecting with God, with God's Word, with God's gifts, and with God's people. Plus, we are all the richer for it when we are together. But if you can't be with us on a Sunday morning, I do hope you will pause a moment, and say a prayer for your church family!
Hope to see you in worship this very week!