This past Sunday morning, I went to church.
That in itself is not so unusual. After all, I am a pastor, and going to church is my job. What was unusual is that I went to church as an ordinary guy. Not as pastor, but as worshiper. And I was reminded of how great a privilege and how important a component of life is worship.
Sunday for a pastor is normally a work day. My mind is filled from the moment I rise – usually very early – with thoughts about the details of the service and particularly the sermon I’m to preach. Right or wrong, this preoccupation rarely disappears even after worship has begun. And though I benefit from worship and truly do celebrate the Lord’s kindness in the communion we share, there is still a distraction that comes from having such a public role to play.
But this past Sunday was different. It was ordinary. I was on vacation and had no responsibilities. In fact, I could have stayed home. I could have judged that I ‘needed a break’, or that I was tired, or any one of the myriad of reasons that I have heard as a pastor over the years for placing a low priority on public worship.
But I went, with no responsibilities, and I was blessed.
We showed up later than planned because we went together as a family. My visiting son and his wife have an infant son whose presence slowed us down. But that was okay. We arrived as worship was beginning and we took our seats as would anyone else. We listened, we spoke, we sang, we prayed.
When the time came for the sermon to be preached, I reached for my note pad. The one preaching in my place was my intern and I knew he would be interested in my critical reflections upon his preaching. I started to take notes to share with him, and then stopped. More than he needed my reflections, I needed to be fed God’s Word. I needed to be preached to, and he did such a solid job of that that it was a blessing just to listen.
And then I had the rare experience (for me) of being served communion. I am normally the one serving. The sacrament served to remind me of my place in the people of God and the privilege that is. It was such a warm and encouraging reminder.
I left having been blessed by the ordinary service of God’s ordinary people in the ordinary rhythm of the church.
And I left wondering why anyone would ever voluntarily pass on the extraordinary privilege of gathering for worship with God’s people. It is not something that we merely should do. It is something that we are regularly privileged to do.
Perhaps it is only we who rarely have that privilege who can see that so well.