In the 35 years I have been a pastor one of the things I have gotten used to is the line that is often spoken after I tell someone what I do for a living. The script hasn’t varied much over the years. I meet someone for the first time in the neighborhood, on an airplane, or in some social setting and I get the question:
Stranger: So what do you do?
Me: I’m a Presbyterian minister.
Stranger: Must be interesting work.
Me: Yes, it can be.
Stranger: How’s it feel to work just one day a week? What do you do the other six days?
Me: (forced laugh) Yeah well…, great weather we’ve been having, huh?
Over the years I have become more adept at avoiding the temptation to respond with a snide comment, or a nervous defense of my work ethic. In fact, I have become quite comfortable with admitting that the work I do on Sundays is central to what I do as a pastor. While I do have things to do and people to see on those other days, Sunday is the day on which I get the most traction. Because on Sunday I have the privilege and responsibility of giving witness to the truth that fuels the other six days of our week.
Hebrews 10:19-25 has been one of my guides in coming to this conclusion. There the writer explains to the members of the church why it is essential to gather regularly for worship and fellowship:
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In short, we gather in order to remind ourselves about who we are as disciples of Christ, to thank God for this new identity and to encourage one another as we all work with the question about what it looks like to live out this identity in our world. We gather to draw near to the God who has chosen to draw near to us, and we gather to draw near to one another. And once we have gathered, we scatter into our respective worlds where we reflect the light of God’s love that he has poured out upon us.
What we do at church is not an end in itself. Our discipleship is not primarily about building the church; it is about learning to be the Church in our world. What we do on Sundays is done in service to the other six days of the week.
Between September 10th and November 27th our sermons will be drawn from the Gospel of John and focus on the theme of discipleship. Over these weeks as we explore what Christian discipleship looks like, I also want to encourage us to work with a related question. Namely: How does what we do together on Sundays help us to frame our other six days? I’d welcome the chance to hear your answer to this question and will be periodically asking folks to share these reflections with us in worship. The other six days gain meaning and energy as we set them in the context of the Sabbath day. Let’s spend some time celebrating that truth and so “provoke one another to love and good deeds.”