Courtesy of an unusually crazy schedule the last few weeks, David and I have been missing each other like two ships passing in the night. So with today (Sunday) being the only day in several and in the foreseeable future that we were not going in separate directions, we decided to play hooky from church and invest in a little family time.
After going out for breakfast, he went to run an errand, then met me at the dog park, where I had already taken Sheba. While I was waiting for him, I found myself sitting on a bench under a shade tree by the pond. Sheba was happily playing in the water. I was savoring a few quiet moments with little more than the sound of the morning breeze dancing through the trees and the sloshing sound of Sheba moving through the water. That, and of course, the occasional roaring of a C-130 flying overhead as the boys at the nearby Air National Guard base ran Sunday morning flight maneuvers.
In between passing transport planes, I did manage to capture a few quiet moments to take in my surroundings. As I sat underneath huge shade trees and looked around at acres of an open, sloping, grassy field, one thought immediately came to my mind:
Now, I enjoy a padded chair and air-conditioning as much as the next guy. But as I sat there imagining groups of people gathered together under a tree or along the banks of a river, listening to the gentle, strong voice of Jesus Himself, I could not help but long to have been there even for a moment, to witness first-hand these earliest days of New Testament gatherings.
I could just picture it: mothers holding babies in their laps and trying to keep small children occupied and quiet so they could hear Him; older kids and teens sitting close to their friends on the grass; men, some sitting with their families, others standing close by around the perimeter, keeping a protective eye on their loved ones; curious passersby pausing to listen to the life-transforming words before being on their way.
I’ve participated in outdoor worship gatherings, services, & prayer meetings, and I have to say that as a general rule, I prefer them over the confinement of the carpeted, padded-chaired, air-conditioned, mood lit four walls we call church – any day of the week. Yes, it gets hot out there (wear light clothing and bring a water bottle) and yes, you might have to sit on the ground or a hard concrete bench or at a splintered picnic table (or stand) and no, there is not a cry room or a nursery, or a bathroom with fruit-scented liquid soap, but there is something about the no walls, sky-is-the-ceiling, worshiping the God of creation surrounded by His creation experience that causes every other typical Sunday morning American church service to pale in comparison.
Jesus was a simple man. He lived a simple life. He set a simple example for us to follow: Love God, love others. Everything else is just stuff. But that’s a message for another time.
1 Corinthians 1:25