My life has been built around the Lord’s day for as long as I’ve been alive. It was and is the constant in my life. Monday through Saturday is subject to variation of change but Sundays were always astonishingly consistent. I have known the value of Lord’s day worship for as long as I’ve been a Christian. However, I am convinced I know it better today than I ever have. The Bible is clear about its purpose.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.Hebrews 10:24-25
I have known this to be true by presence but I have never known it by absence. I walked through the doors of Friendship Baptist Church for eighteen years. I heard faithful preaching. I sang great hymns. The saints at that local church prayed for me; they invested their Sunday mornings teaching me the Scriptures and encouraging me to walk faithfully before the Lord. After that I began my ministry at First Baptist Church in Grenada. I, in all seriousness, couldn’t list to you all the ways that church stirred me up to good works and a deeper love of God and the saints. I rejoice in every opportunity I have to walk back through those doors, for that was the place where my love for the church changed. It was there that I began to understand what it meant to be a vital member of a local church. Do you know what I mean by vital member? A vital member is someone who has so knit his or her soul to a church that when he or she is absent it feels as though something is off. It’s like thanksgiving dinner when your oldest child wasn’t able to make it, or Christmas morning with no children. The day is still rich and joyful but it is missing something. That leads me to a question: why does sitting in your home, eating breakfast with your family, singing a few hymns, and listening to a sermon on video feel so bad?
All the things that make true worship are present. The Word is preached. We sing hymns, songs, and spiritual songs. For all intents and purposes, that is the substance of Lord’s day worship. Except that the mouth of the body is missing the foot, the foot misses fellowship with the leg and the leg longs to mobilize the rest of the body. The ear longs to hear, the tongue longs to sing, the eye longs to see, and the hand longs to serve. It feels so bad because at home the shadow isn’t connected. Yes, we have the Word, and in it we rejoice. Yes, we can sing, and sing loudly the praises of Jesus, for He indeed is worthy of all worship.
Why can’t it be replicated then? Why doesn’t family worship do the same thing in our souls that corporate worship does? Because our families aren’t the church. God never promised to build your family into the body of Christ. By no means is this a denigration of the family. Instead, the family allows us to more deeply understand the gathering of the saints. The reason Lord’s Day worship cannot be replicated is that it is the gathering of the family of God. The family of God has been united by the finished work of Christ and has received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry “Abba Father,” and as all families long to gather so does the eternal family of God. We know that our gatherings are temporary, but in them we taste eternity. In the gathering of the saints we see the future. We see the day that we will never be dispersed. We see in the Lord’s day the day that knows no end. Why can’t it be replicated? Because to see the full picture of the future I need the Word preached to remind me of the Eternal Word’s beauty. I need to sing to the one who is worthy of worship as an expression of praise. I need to see Baptism and be reminded of God’s work to express perfect justice and grace that brings salvation. I need to eat and drink at the table to be reminded of the glorious covenant that I have been brought into. And I need all of these to be done together with the Church that he bought with his blood so that I might see the true magnitude of His grace. I need the vital members of the church to remind me of our vital union with Christ.
I have known all of these things to be true in presence but I have never known them in absence. Until now. I didn’t want to know them in absence. But I am glad I do. They are sweeter to me today than they were three weeks ago. I doubt any saint prayed to know the effect of the Lord’s day gathering in absence, but we must trust that God has a good purpose in teaching it to us. Brothers and sisters, worship with your family each Lord’s day during this time, embrace the longing that the Spirit of God births in your soul each Lord’s day morning knowing that it is from God. And trust that God is doing a good work.