I feel like my younger self awaiting the first day back to school after the summer or a long winter break.
I am full of excitement. Anticipation. Hopefulness. Just plan joy.
I've been out of school for a couple years now so I don't get that can't-wait-to-see-my-friends-it-seems-like-forever-even-though-it's-just-been-a-few-weeks-feeling. But I do remember what I felt like on the eve of heading back to school.
I remember getting everything ready for school the night before. The lunch packed. The clothes picked out and laid on the dresser. The backpack full and brimming with a schedule, books, assignments, a trapper keeper, the latest notes from friends.
I remember thinking about who would be in my classes and whether so and so would still be mad at each other. I'd wonder if there would be a new student. Or if someone would be sick. And of course I'd think about the teachers and the homework.
I'm not going back to school but I am equally full of those same feelings: excitement, anticipation, hopefulness, joy.
For this Sunday I'm going back to church for worship. Now I am a pastor and it's a part of my job to be there week after week. I haven't been away from the church. But here in Missouri we've dealt with some weather.
Did I mention ice?
Since December 8th, there's been some sort of winter weather. Even a little bit of precipitation causes fear and creates hazardous walking and driving conditions. We've had church every week in December, but with the weather, Christmas and family travels, and the unfortunate low-attendance Sunday after Christmas, it seems like an eternity since we've all been together.
And to top it off, on the first Sunday in January, the start to a new year, we had to cancel worship. Cold weather, blowing snow, and ice aren't conducive for safe travel. So the folks at Christ and Trinity missed spending the first Sunday of the new year together. We missed communal worship. We missed hearing one another's voices. We missed the sharing of bread and wine. We missed hearing that God declares all our sins forgiven. We missed sharing the peace with one another.
I have checked the weather forecast for this coming Sunday. All clear. And that's why I feel like a child anticipating the coming together for worship. I am hopeful and excited and downright joyful at the prospect of being together. I seem to take for granted the gift of worship. It's such a part of my routine and life that it's on automatic pilot. Sunday comes and I go to church. Sunday comes and we form the body of Christ together. With our songs, our prayers, our warts and all.
And when I miss a Sunday I feel a bit disjointed. I don't feel quite whole. The rest of my week has a different rhythm to it. I genuinely miss the off-key singing. I miss the voices of children who rise above everyone else to pray the Lord's prayer. I miss the questions and how do you dos. I miss the anticipation that God will indeed break into our lives and offer radical hospitality and unrelenting forgiveness. I miss the connections made between brothers and sisters in Christ. I miss the surprises and interruptions. I miss hearing that the bread and the wine, Christ's body and blood, are given for me. And given for you.
Of course it's not that we haven't seen each other for youth activities and bible studies, and it's not that I can't pray and sing and offer peace when I'm outside the church building. But there's something important in the act of coming together week after week on Sunday mornings. There's the power in community - where two or more are gathered. There's the power in knowing that from the youngest to the oldest, we believe in something greater than ourselves. There's the power in celebrating the holy breaking into our ordinary, messy, and clumsy lives.
There's the power in knowing that our anticipation and joy and hopefulness is bound to the One who continually shows up in our lives to make us new and whole. For this Sunday, I do know what I'll wear. I'll have my bag packed and my thoughts in order. I'll be downright joyful. And maybe a little tired from lack of sleep.
And most of all I look forward to being surrounded by the Body of Christ.