Did you know there’s a whole subsegment of the religious greeting card industry devoted to cards that say “We miss you when you’re not here”? One of my favorites has a picture of a lamb in the foreground and a whole flock of sheep off in the distance. While I like the message, I wish the imagery was different. The idea is that the flock is up to something and that poor little lost sheep is missing out on all of it. These cards don’t capture what the rest of the sheep are missing when that one lamb isn’t there. The focus is on the flock. God’s real focus begins with you.
Our worship across the many and diverse congregations of the ELCA is offered as a place for you to connect your daily life to God’s loving presence. When people do this together, true community is formed and God’s flock is fed. Our world and lives are hectic, chaotic and often stressful. Worship offers us a beautiful place to gather, where all are welcome and God blesses our unique lives. I want you to know (just in case no one else has told you) that if you haven’t been here in awhile, we’ve noticed. And what we’ve missed most is not your envelope in the plate — it’s you.
Often we miss seeing people with young children who find it hard to come to church regularly. My wife, Kathleen, and I struggle with this each week as the parents of a very active 3-year-old. We know what it’s like to come to church with a child who loves to roam around, spill cereal on the floor and kick the back of the pew in front of him. Sometimes when this happens, moms and dads feel self-conscious about these “distractions.” My wife has even wondered if maybe the rest of the flock would be better off if our little lamb stayed home for a while.
The truth is, worship is always for all of God’s people. This includes those who have been worshiping for 90 years and are content to sit and listen, and those who are more often ready to run and play because worship is a newer experience. The “distractions” children bring into the sanctuary are an important part of real life in the flock. I think God likes them, and I do too.
If you have been in church regularly and have missed seeing friends, I invite you to give them a call. Let them know. The majority of people who come to church came for the first time because a friend invited them. I think the majority who return to church come back for the same reason.
So we hope to see you soon if we haven’t seen you lately. In the meantime, the message is the same — we miss you when you’re not here. We miss seeing you. We miss your children: cereal, kicks to the pew and all! God’s house is for all people, and we are at our best when God’s diverse flock is gathered together.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers