I pray all is well and that the Lord is blessing your Adventide devotion with the peace of Christ.
Admittedly and obviously, as the pastor here at Our Savior, I have a very different perspective than most when it comes to the Lord’s house. Now, I don’t mean that it’s better. I mean it’s different. For example, the view from the altar, pulpit, and lectern is very different than the view from the pews or the choir loft. Another example, and this one is bit stranger…
Maybe you knew and maybe you didn’t, but the last few years, with the ferocious weather we’ve endured, there were four or five nights when I found it necessary to spend the night here at the church in order to assure that the lights would be on and the doors would be open for Sunday worship the very next day. Pastor Pies, Sr. and Pastor Pies, Jr. made it a point that if a Divine Service was scheduled, it was going to happen, and the only thing that would be cause for canceling would be the Lord’s return in glory. I’m of the same mind, and so I don’t intend to let a cancellation ever happen on my watch. The problem is that I live considerably further away than the Pies family, and so with that, a sleepover is necessary.
Nevertheless, the point of this little narrative is to say that at 2 AM, when the lights are out and the snow is crackling against the windows, when the howling winds are creeping in and echoing in the empty halls, the church building becomes a very different place—almost alien. When it’s empty and dark and the voices of the day have all gone, this place is only half itself. Its guts are gone and you can feel it.
But when it’s bright and full—when the children are giggling in the school classrooms and corridors, when the worshippers are gathering together to sing their full-throated praises, when the sermon is booming and the organ is rattling the seams of the stained glass, when the study-goers are calling out in discussion and the whole group is learning and laughing together—this place becomes otherworldly in a different sense, almost heavenly. It becomes the fullness of its identity when its innards—you, the body of believers—return. And in this return, the Lord proves Himself to be at work by His Holy Spirit gathering His people to a place where He can be with them, where eternal life will beam because the gift of forgiveness through Word and Sacrament is being doled out with such plenty that you’d never think these hallways could ever be dark or that there could ever be silence in the rafters.
In the end, this place is what it is because of Christ and not us. And yet, Christ gathers people. And it is into people that Christ places His mercy—the light and life of His love—so that when the building’s rooms are dark and the noise is much less, we know that the true light hasn’t been extinguished. It’s simply gone out with those to whom God has given it (Matthew 5:14).
With that, know that you belong here. When you’re gone, you’re missed. Your light is a big deal to me and to the rest of your Christian family. I certainly ponder this while lying on the cot in my office in the middle of a blustery winter’s night.