The whiteness of the snow is glaring through the windows of my study. I am wearing my Columbia fleece jacket indoors because of the chill in my bones. I had to scrape the layer of frost off of the windows of my Durango this morning in order to see out of them. Yes, winter has arrived in Northeast Nebraska, and I am already tired of it - not so much because of all the extra work it causes, not too mention the dangers it brings to traveling on the roads or simply walking around. Mainly, I have grown fatigued of winter because we had to cancel worship services this past Sunday morning since we had the first real snow storm of the season. I have been reflecting on all that I miss when we are not able to gather with our church family on a Sunday.
The Calm Before the Crowd. I arrive to the church building an hour or two prior to anyone else. I love to walk through the quiet building and imagine the people who will soon be gathered there. I unlock doors and turn on lights and rearrange chairs, all the while praying for God's blessing upon us as we gather together. This time helps me to prepare my heart for worship and for fellowship. I think of ways I can encourage the different members of the church family who will soon be walking through the doors.
Going Deep with My Sunday School Class. I've found that nothing prepares my heart better for the worship service than thinking about and discussing God's glorious Word together with other believers just prior to the service. We are blessed at Stanton Evangelical Free Church to have active Sunday School or as I like to call them, Transformation Classes, for all ages. The adults that attend the class I'm with are eager to learn God's Word, and to discuss the wonders of the gospel together. It seems every week, someone shares something that they see in God's Word that encourages me. Currently we are viewing the Dispatches from the Front videos on front-line missions work. These videos are moving and inspiring and fill us with hope for the success of the Gospel. We leave the class with our hearts full and ready to pour out our praise to our great God in the worship service.
All of the Warm Greetings. It is such a blessing to personally greet your brothers and sisters in Christ each Sunday morning. Everyone is unique, so each greeting is just a bit different. Some are a bit distracted with small children or responsibilities so their greetings are short but still genuine. Others are at a much later stage of life and so they move a little slower, and so their greetings are too. These are usually the ones who have been waiting all week to get out of their home to see their church family. Therefore their greetings are full of meaning and gratefulness. There are also the greetings of your good friends, those you know well. These are always encouraging because of the deeper level of knowledge you have of each other. You sense the blessing of being known and understood by these dear brothers and sisters. Then there are also the joyful greetings of the newer people you are just getting to know. Some are fairly wide-eyed as they take in your church for the first time. Others are a little nervous, and reserved as they take it all in, not knowing what to expect. It is such a blessing to meet them and share your appreciation for their visiting your church and help them feel a little more comfortable. It is always exciting to get to know a little of their story and background. Then there are the children and students. I love to (somewhat loudly) welcome those high school or junior high students who are acting all cool and inconspicuous. The children though love to give you a high-five or a fist-bump as they scamper around. And there is always one five-year-old little girl who always comes and finds me wherever I am when she arrives to church to give me a hug.
Singing the Gospel to One Another. I love to sing songs that are rich in the truth of the Gospel as well as praise and honoring our Savior God. It adds special meaning as I look around at the different members of my church family singing these words as well. Especially when I am aware of how God's grace has worked in each of their lives to deliver them from sin and rebellion and has transformed them into new creations. Or when I am aware of the struggles that some are facing in their lives and I know the words of the songs are speaking truth for their doubts and shining light into their darkness. Singing the Gospel to one another within our church helps to build up our faith together and encourage us to hang on to Christ in the midst of various trials.
Proclaiming God's Word. The greatest privilege I have in my life is to speak the very words of God to the people of God each week. There is something very special that takes place during that time. It is hard to explain, but it is like, we are all brought up into the heavenly courts, for a few moments, and we leave the deceptions of this world and our enemy behind us and are able to focus our full attention upon the glorious truth of God's Word. Lies cannot stand in the sight of the Truth. Darkness is chased away when the light of the Gospel shines forth. The pretenses that we have been trying to live behind are broken down and our true selves are exposed to the searching eyes of God's Word. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the wondrous things that are within the word of God. Our faith is built up and our resolve is strengthened as the very precious promises of the Gospel come to light.
I missed all of these great blessings this week. But I am looking forward to this coming Sunday. It will still be cold, yes, but there is no snow in the forecast. Hopefully, we can all be together again, and even more hungry to hear and speak and sing the Word of God together.