Last week I hosted a video call with all our shepherding elders and their wives, simply to connect and share some updates about how we are responding as a church in this crazy time. Our shepherding elders provide care for people, counsel people, pray for people in our church, and serve in a myriad of other ways. I love them so much. I could barely get through the call. I kept getting choked up seeing their faces all over my screen. I miss seeing them face-to-face. I was not expecting the emotion to hit me in that moment. I am grateful for the technology tools but I want to gather again.
Last week I asked our leadership team what they are grieving as we started our weekly meeting. There were lots of tears. We miss so much. We are unable to lead and care for people in ways that feel as personal as we would like. We are adapting and we are using the tools but we long to gather again.
I understand Psalms like Psalm 42 more now than I have ever before. The Psalmist was not with God’s people in Jerusalem (see verse six), and he longed to gather with others, even asked God how much longer it would be: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)”
How much longer, Lord? When can we come together to worship You?
If you long to gather again for worship, there are two thoughts. One is comforting, the other is challenging.
1. The longing to gather should comfort us.
Our longing to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a gracious reminder that we belong to Him. He has given us this longing. The tears are reminders that His mercy has changed us. The apostle John wrote that when people leave the community of Christ followers, they show that they never really belonged to the community (I John 2:19). Our longing for Christian community, our desire to worship alongside brothers and sisters reminds us that the Lord has changed us and made us His own. I am a Christian! I am reminded that I belong to Christ! And this is huge!
2. The longing to gather should challenge us to appreciate our gatherings more.
When we gather again, may we not take the moments for granted. May we work to be there on time and stay past the end because our souls long for every second we can gather together. When we gather again, may we sing more loudly. Because we know there are brothers and sisters among us who need to be encouraged. When we gather again, may we sit on the edge of our seats and listen more intently. Because we need the Word declared over our lives over and over again. When we gather again, may we look for ways to encourage and bless others because we know our gatherings are a respite from the cruel and broken world we inhabit.
Lord, speed that day!