I’ve finally been able to go back to church after months of chemotherapy treatments kept me at home. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I went back a few weeks ago. Our church has done an amazing job since the pandemic of streaming the worship services online, and while I was definitely blessed to have that, there is a lot more to being in the body of Christ than watching a worship service every Sunday. Some of the most important things cannot be replicated through a screen. The two I’m thinking of are fellowship and the Lord’s Supper.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
The body of Christ is meant to be a ‘one another’ kind of gathering where we are called to love one another, encourage one another, forbear with one another, and forgive each other. You can’t do that through a screen. What was interesting to me during my time away from church was how awkward I felt going back. I had been living in an isolated way only for a short time, but that isolation had an effect on me. I was away from the body so I had lacked that ‘one another’ nourishment the body gives to all its members. A Christian isolated from the body of Christ starts to atrophy just like any body part that has its blood supply, its life, cut off.
I know that many have been praying for me throughout my cancer journey. I read the comments on Caring Bridge and have kept all the sweet cards I’ve received in the mail. But what has been far more impactful and life giving has been to see these prayer warriors in person and grasp their hands as they tell me again and again of their consistent prayers on my behalf. This past Sunday I just happened to sit in the same pew as a long time friend, a widow who used to babysit my children 20 years ago, a dear one who I know has been praying constantly for me. Getting a hug from her was like getting an instant infusion of encouragement and strength. I didn’t want to let go! The body of Christ, my local body of believers, is breathing life back into me by their words and handshakes and hugs.
The body of Christ also has rituals that help it remember together and reflect. Our church celebrated the Lord’s Supper a few times while I was confined to my home, and while they encouraged us to use crackers and juice in order to participate, I never felt properly prepared, and taking it on my own would have felt a bit empty segregated from the rest of the body. It was such a joy then to be able to take the Lord’s Supper this past Sunday, with my spiritual family, and be handed the elements by my friend who gave me that hug. Sitting with the whole body of Christ, singing with one another and then remembering together the sacrifice of our Lord was truly special and something I’m so happy to be experiencing again.
We truly are one body, and cannot function on our own. When you’ve been forced to be physically away from the body for a long period of time, coming back together is especially sweet. I pray I never take it for granted.