I wish I had a dollar for every time over the last 36 years someone has chortled and elbowed me as they have made what to them was the original observation that I probably have lots of time because I only work one day a week. In these latter years, I have taken to the practice of responding to this old joke with the quip: “Yes, it’s true, and I want to thank you for the healthy retainer you pay me to be on call the other six days.”
There was a day when I would defensively attest to the number of hours I was in the office or try to make a show of how busy I was in order to head off any suspicion of the inordinate amount of leisure in my week. Yet with time I have become better at shrugging off the accusation, smiling at the joke and quietly resting in the importance of that one day.
Sabbath sets the course for the other six days. To orchestrate the gathering that redirects our attention to the One in whom all things cohere (Col. 1:17), is a privilege and responsibility that never ceases to challenge, gratify and edify me. I get to lead people in worship. I get to invite people to draw near to God and hold fast to the confession of our hope. I get to be a part of a community where people accept the call to encourage one another and stir up one another to reflect God’s love by doing good works in our world (Heb. 10:19-25). It’s a great gig, and one of the greatest things about it is the gift of seeing how you experience the presence of God and participate in the work of God during your other six days.
When Jesus called his first disciples, he did not present them with a proposal to build a church. Nor did he present them with a document containing a list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that they needed to affirm before they could be a part of his posse. He simply asked them to follow him, to come and see. As they followed they observed and became a part of his redemptive work. And when he departed from them he asked them to continue this journey and to invite others to join them.
The church comes about because we need one another in order to continue the journey. Emmanuel Presbyterian Church is a container for something much bigger than itself. It holds a particular group of disciples of Jesus who have covenanted with God and one another to keep following Jesus. The church helps us to set our course. What we do on the one day is meant to energize and equip us for our other six days. In short, the church doesn’t need us, we need the church. So as the writer of Hebrews admonishes us, don’t neglect to meet together. Come take what you need and give what is necessary to sustain the church’s ability to continue to energize its people. We’ve all got six days of living to do and by coming together on the seventh day we rest in God and ready ourselves for the challenge and the joy of the journey.