In the summer time, people make it to church less often. In part, because they are away. But, I suspect, also just because they know others will be there less. Others vacations and lower attendance in general becomes an excuse…
Often as I ride my bike around, all of a sudden someone will come to mind as it occurs to me, “I haven’t seen _____ for awhile.” I like to think of those realizations as prayers. I could list the names of those who I’m praying for! If you are one of those who doesn’t make it to church so often in the summer, you might not like hearing you are this prayer list. Yes, I often do realize when you aren’t in church!
One of you teases me (or is perhaps complaining?), “you are the most relaxed pastor I know when it comes to church attendance.” Perhaps. But I want people to be able to find their own way into church… to make room for our faith community in their lives the way they think right (and not according to someone else’s expectations). My brow-beating people into attendance, if I could, would create more resentment than openness to God. Also, in humility, I realize God can be found anywhere in our lives, not just in church. Church is just special because it tends to help us remember to look for God… and gives us some clues for seeing.
Yes, I do miss you who miss church in the summer. And I recommend church, which of late, it has occurrs to me is like the gym. You can go every couple of months and enjoy it. But your doctor will point out, at that frequency, you don’t get as much out of your exercise routine. It’ s only when you go to the gym repeatedly, regularly that you begin to see the changes exercise can effect. In fact, the number of gym visits multiplies geometrically the health results.
If you were to come to church every week, you get more than 4 or 5 times the spiritual maturing that you do from once a month!
Mark W. also points out that coming to church isn’t just about what you get out of it. Each of us need a community in which to worship. And the more people in the congregation — think Easter crowds — the more power, prayer, witness there is for each of us. It’s almost as if more of God’s presence is manifested as the body of Christ is bigger.
All that said, if summer keeps you away, know that you are missed. And prayed for. Also realize that you can still use the time God’s giving for some spiritual growth. Summer is a season of great fertility, growth and abundance after all.
God is everywhere, wherever you are, even though we often fail to recognize the presence. Shaken up summer schedules and the low-anxiety discombobulation they afford may be your opportunity to recognize God as your fellow-traveler.
Here are two hints for making the most of your time when you can’t join us at church:
1) When something surprises you, take that as a hint, God could be near. I have a pastor-friend who says “Surprise!” is just a non-anthropomorphic name for God. When God shows up, it’s often a surprise, and surprising things begin to happen or are possible. Wanting to grow closer to God, to recognize God more easily, follow the unexpected to where the wonder is.
2) If you find yourself, even in the long, lazy days of summer, still failing to see God, or not seeing God as much as you might want to, try this. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Where was God in my life today?” Yes, that could be a philosophical question about your priorities, but I’m recommending it to you as a very factual question about your every day life. Where did God seem near? When could you see God at work in your day? It’s curious, but as with all relationships, sometimes it’s easier to see clearly in hindsight. But that recognition may well strengthen your vision going forward.
See you in church,