Winter: A Letter to West Franklin

Winter: A Letter to West Franklin January 22, 2022
West Franklin Family,
It’s Winter. Last Sunday we could not gather in person due to icy, snowy conditions. As I type (I started writing this on Wednesday), it is pouring rain – washing away the last remnants of last weekend’s snow. The weatherman said it’s supposed to drop into the 20’s tonight. There’s another chance of ice and snow. It’s muddy. It’s mushy. It’s nasty. The ground freezes, then thaws. You either step on a icy spot, or your shoe is engulfed in cold, muddy water. Spending time outside is impossible without proper boots, coats, gloves, and ear muffs. My kids are asking if they will be out of school tomorrow. I am wondering how I will refrain from saying a bad word if Carol Birdsong calls my phone again. It’s Winter.
And it’s necessary.
That’s right. Winter is necessary. If we are going to enjoy the beauty and wonder and brightness and warmth and air and colors of Spring – the Winter has to do its work. For one, we wouldn’t enjoy it near as much if we didn’t go through the cold and nasty season. On a deeper level, however, the ground has to “die” in order to provide resurrection life. The elements have to endure the gross in order to bring proper life. Holy Saturday is necessary for Resurrection Sunday. Winter is necessary for Spring.
It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s cold. It induces longing. Everything seems wet and soggy and muddy. My pant size grows. My shirts get smaller. My dog doesn’t want to go outside. But it’s necessary. Winter has to do its work so Spring will come. God is working whether we see (or feel) it or not. In our souls and in our church.
West Franklin, we are (hopefully) a few short weeks away from being able to worship together in the renovated Worship Center. Gathering in the fellowship hall has not been bad. Different, but not horrible. More intimate? In a way. But not the “full experience” if you know what I mean. It’s been a kind of winter. A necessary reality. I am eager for us not to waste the next few weeks. I am burdened that we not mistake moving into the new space as “finally” being able to worship again. Do I want us to enjoy the new space? Absolutely. Do I believe it will be energetic and lively and worshipful? You bet. But I don’t want us to think we cannot worship corporately “only” in a new space. Church is a people. The redeemed people of God. Church is the expression of the Gospel in and through human lives. When we gather, we worship the Lord. Where we gather, we worship the Lord.
What if, over the next several weeks, we made it our aim to truly worship as we gather in the fellowship hall? To allow the Winter to do its work, preparing us for a new space? To see one another as rescued and redeemed brothers and sisters who love the Lord Jesus? To sing to and about our God and Father and our Savior Jesus in the power of the Spirit? To sit under the Word, allowing the Spirit to speak to our soul – leading us to genuine, spiritual transformation? To seek the Lord together in prayer – listening and speaking – to the One who is alive from the grave? The same God who will receive (and deserves) our worship in the renovated space is the same One who receives (and deserves) it in the fellowship hall. Perhaps this season is a means by which we are lovingly confronted with what genuine worship is? Take a survey of your heart this weekend. What is required for you to be able to worship the Lord with His people on a Sunday morning?
I am eager to get into our new space. Very eager. But I don’t want us to think we cannot worship unless the atmosphere is a certain way. I want us to be able to worship in the Winter and the Spring. I want us to worship on a Monday morning commute and a Christmas Eve service. I want us to to be worshippers of Jesus in line at a grocery store and in a trendy, modern room at a church building. I want us worshiping at a restaurant with friends and at the Lord’s table. I want us to worship while listening to music on a walk and while singing our favorite hymn on Sunday.
West Franklin, let’s let Winter do its work. Let’s pay attention to what the Spirit is saying to us about true worship in a corporate setting. Let’s lean into what (who) the church really is. This way, when we are able to be in the renovated space, we will know it’s not manufactured. It’s real.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to the store to purchase new pants.
Trying to Stay Warm,
Pastor Matt
I’ll see you tomorrow at 8, 9, or 10:30 AM with my Bible open to John 2:1-12.
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