I was born on a Tuesday, came home from the hospital on Thursday, and was in church on Sunday, despite the doctor’s admonition that it was not wise for a fellow who just missed the incubator to be in crowds. And so set the pattern of my life. When the church doors were open, we were there. I can never remember discussing one time if we were going to church or not. It was habit.
As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, there have only been four Sundays in my life where I have missed church. In fifth grade, I had an emergency appendectomy on Saturday night which kept me out of church the next day. In Philadelphia, my colon kinked off putting me in the hospital on Sunday. In 1996, we had 30 inches of snow (a record in Philly) which caused the cancellation of church. And my fourth Sunday out of church is today.
Blizzard-like conditions have once again hit Rhode Island reducing roads to zero visibility and putting wind chill factors well below zero. I can’t get out of my driveway, let alone make it the five and a half miles to church. The decision to cancel church was not easy, despite the fact that our governor has told us to stay off the roads. As a pastor, I live for Sundays!
Thus, it is extremely odd sitting home this Sunday morning between 11:00 and 12:00. But as I sit housebound, several thoughts have come to my mind. And I would like to share with you some reflections of a snowed-in pastor.
First, I have had to realize that some things are out of my control. No matter how well we orchestrate the program for Sunday, no matter how well the choir rehearses, the ushers greet, or the sermon is presented, we need God. The weather is one way God reminds us that He is still in control. If He chooses, he can bring our program to a grinding halt. We get to do what we do because God has made a way for us to do it.
Second, there are times when activities need to cease. Since the beginning of time, God has put a Sabbath as part of the schedule. We need to budget time for rest. Sometimes we burn the candles at both ends so much so that God has to hem us in so that we will rest. This morning I slept till 9:00. It’s been a long time since I did that. It reminded me of just how tired I’ve been. A full schedule and the stress that accompanies it are not always God’s will. It is okay to do nothing. And sometimes God has to put us in bondage so the land can lie dormant for a while.
On the flip side, we need to take chances when they become available. The hardest part about calling off today’s service was lost opportunities (and offerings). We would like to think that everybody will double up their tithe next week, and people who had every intention of coming this week will come next week. But such is not the case. What we do for the Lord, we have to do now because we have no guarantee how next week will flesh itself out.
I also have become overwhelmingly discouraged today because I have not been able to spend time with my companions in the Lord. And though I have listened to some podcasts and taken a sneak peek at some livestreams, it is not the same. No podcast can give you a needed hug. Virtual church is no substitute for church. We need each other. To think that the internet or television can provide a worship experience equivalent to church is delusional. For me, anyway, it made me more discouraged and aware of the fact that I was missing out on what others were able to experience.
And finally, being snowed in today has heightened my compassion for those who are housebound all the time. I visit monthly those in my church who are shut in or widows indeed. These multiple blizzards that have hit New England have given me a glimpse of what they experience on a daily basis. They need us more than we realize. Our ministries to them need to be consistent and fervent.
So here I sit on Sunday morning, wheels already turning for next Sunday morning. But in the midst of the storm, I take some time to reflect. My prayers go out to my brothers and sisters I missed seeing today. You are loved.