I read a book awhile back called Difficult Conversations, and I thought it was good. The authors provide all sorts of strategies for defusing a potentially explosive situation, relaxing a likely tense environment as you begin that difficult conversation. From reprimanding an employee to confronting a family member; from expressing disappointment or bringing disappointment, the book gives examples from the work place, marriage, family and friendship. With confidence they assert that every difficult conversation can be had in ways that are healthy and life-giving.
The authors never had to tell someone they were missed at church.
Whether as a deacon or an elder or just a friend, if you’ve been at Home Depot and run into a fellow church member who has not been in worship for awhile, you know what I am talking about. You don’t even want it to be a difficult conversation. All you want to do is tell the truth: “I’ve missed you.” But difficult it becomes. Very quickly.
So, what do you say past the first hello and how ya’ doin’? I’ve missed you at church? It’s been a long time? Good to see you? And do you end by saying, “hope to see you Sunday”?
You might as well say, “You haven’t been in church and you’re a really bad person.” The shame and guilt began the instant your friend first saw you and realized they couldn’t get to plumbing fixtures in time to hide from you. Blame your parents, blame your third grade Sunday School teacher, blame your pastor; missing church is guilt inducing like nothing else.
Can we declare a guilt-free zone just long enough for me to say I’ve missed you? Will a really sweet mime help?
We’re eight Sundays into the new year and ice and snow have conspired to keep many of us apart on at least three of those eight Sundays. And then there was the Sunday we had to get to Grandma’s or the kids had a Saturday night sleepover or, well, it was just so cold. Or we were on a mission trip to Guatemala.
Point is, I’ve missed you.
Yes, I’d rather see 300 people in worship than 100. But it’s not about full or empty pews. It’s about you. I missed you. I missed the quick hello passing in the hallway or the 20-second conversation at the back door following the service. I missed seeing your face and your smile. I missed seeing that expression that tells of heavy burdens borne. I missed seeing you nodding off during the sermon.
I missed that wonderful sense that this is who we are. This is LPC. This is the family of faith God has called us to be. Like a family reunion when a favorite cousin or a dear aunt is missing, we are less than who God has called us to be when ice and snow and cold – or busy or lazy – keeps us apart.
I missed you.
And if I may remain in the guilt-free zone a little longer, might I also say that you missed something good. I don’t mean the sermon per se or the choir anthem of the day – we cancelled the choirs a couple of Sundays ago. I mean that you missed something good like when you miss a meal or a good night’s sleep or getting the exercise you need.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews puts it this way to a First Century church with a no-show problem, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Not meeting together as the church, as the family of faith, is a bad habit. We lose contact with God’s people, and, yes, with God. Christianity is not a solo sport, a personal hobby. We are a family, a body, rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts for the sole purpose of edifying one another. Bearing one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ.
We’ve missed being together, all of us.
Whether it’s lion or lamb, Sunday in March 1.
See you Sunday