Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that is traditionally celebrated with family members. It could be your nuclear of your extended family. Many families go over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house or to Uncle Lou and Aunt Dottie’s. One thing that the host of Thanksgiving needs to know is how many people are going to make it. Family members check in. “We’ll be there.” “We’re going to make it, but we will be a little late!” “I can come, and I’ll bring the pie!”
Nobody wants to hear the words, “We’re not going to make it this year.” Whether they live too far away or they have to go to the other side of the family’s place, it is disappointing when everyone can’t be together to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. This year, my oldest sister and her husband and kids will be stopping by for a short time at my mom and dad’s, but they won’t be staying for dinner. They are going to my brother-in-law’s house. We will miss them, just like I know that my wife and I and our son will be missed at my wife’s family’s dinner. You just wish everyone could be together to eat and drink and celebrate.
It should be the same way in the family of God. We should miss those who do not join us in worship on Sunday. We want the whole family to be there, to be together to eat and drink and celebrate. During the worship service, we have the opportunity to participate in a heavenly meal, the Lord’s Supper which is a “foretaste of the feast to come.” This meal is not an individual act. It is a uniting act for the whole community as we gather around Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith. Even those who have died in the faith join us for this meal as we eat and drink with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”
But we miss those who choose to make themselves absent. And we need to let them know. We need to encourage our absent brothers and sisters to join us in church because that is where God comes to us and fills us up with his Word and sacraments. This post was inspired by another blog post I read today entitled “When You Do Not Go to Church:”
“If I decided one Sunday just to skip Church that week, do you think anyone would notice? Ah, you say, but you’re the pastor. Yes, they’d notice. I agree. They would. But it also makes a difference when YOU decide to skip Church this Sunday.
“Each Sunday is a gathering of the family – and when a beloved family member doesn’t show up for the family gathering and meal at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, there’s a hole, a gap, a pain that everyone feels. We’re all the less for that person not being with us to revel in the celebration of that day. Their absence diminishes the joy of the family. So when you choose to skip on Sunday, when you don’t come together with your church family to join in offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and to receive the gifts your Lord has for you, it’s not just you that miss out. Your extended family – the Church – misses out. They are diminished by your decision to absent yourself. The singing is that much quieter. The “amens” that much softer. The spot where you usually sit and stand reminds us all of your absence.
“Surely old Neuhaus was dead right on this: Christian discipleship should begin with a very simple commitment that any given Lord’s Day will find you in the assembly of God’s people, singing His praise, offering your prayers, receiving His gifts. The *only* reasons for missing is because you’re too sick to be present or because you’re away traveling – and even in the later case, blessed are you if you find the family gathered in that location and join with them.”
“Let us consider how to stir one another up 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.” Hebrews 10:25
To those absent from church: we miss you. We need you with us each and every Sunday. Something’s just not right when you’re not there.