Calling Men to Miss Church

This past weekend was the notorious 4th of July fizzle, or at least that is what it is normally called. July 4th weekend and the weekend between Christmas and New Years normally fight for the top spot, or should I say the bottom spot. It may vary from year to year but one of them normally wins lowest attended weekend of the year. It appears July 4th weekend will lose for 2017 - my best visible observations would say that this past weekend was unusually high. (By the way I recognize that for the average person this goes unnoticed and for the average pastor it goes way over-noticed.)
That being said, it caused me to ponder a thought more frequently than I had already been pondering it in recent weeks; and I thought my musings on the matter had been unusually high recently. Not only had my musings been unusually high recently, they had also encountered somewhat of a paradigm shift. Up until now I was thrilled when I was away for the week/weekend and I was thrilled when my family was away for the same. Now quite to the contrary I was not thrilled when you or your family were away for the weekend. I have not totally arrived to a correct perspective but at least there has been a slow shift recently. So my current thoughts are this - when you are gone (visiting family, seeing new places, experiencing adventures, or just plain away on vacation) I am happy for you and I see not only the personal benefits but also the gospel reflections. As a pastor, allow me to focus on the gospel reflections of being away. Our christian focus has always been "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" and the truth is you haven't been -and for that I am thankful. After all, you are there week after week after week. You regularly assemble together and experience the growth that only comes from gathering. So when you go on vacation and get away you embrace the element of the gospel that Jesus has set you free. You are not under the law, 52 weeks of gathering does not make you better that 50 weeks or 46 for that matter. I also see gospel implications of your away-ness reflected through your own personal crucifixion. After all, we are to crucify the flesh aren't we? For some of you, going away and doing what other family or friends want to do, instead of your total "bear like hibernation", is definitely a denying of the flesh. Sometimes the death doesn't come in doing what others want during the time away, it came when you pulled out of the driveway and you died to the lie that you have too much to do and can't afford the time away. Wow the gospel is so at work! Another component of the good news story is experienced as you endure the criticism of the crowds gathered around you - "it must be nice", "I didn't know they had so much money", "I suppose she thinks herself better than me", and countless other verbal jabs by those in the crowd. But good for you, you know where these blessing have come from and you express your gratitude back to the Vacation Giver and you live in freedom and wow - the gospel at work again; on vacation of all places.
So as your pastor, I want to encourage you in the gospel - die to self, renew your joy, enliven your spirit, breathe life into those around you and take a vacation, even if it is just a weekend get-away. I only think God would be displeased if your "vacation" was a Sunday only thing - I told you it was a slow shift for me:)
I am not talking about carelessness toward Jesus or a lack of affection toward his bride or an aversion towards serving or an allergic reaction toward worship. I am not talking about only showing up here and there when there is nothing better to do; or "I guess it has been a few weeks since we have been"; or "Pastor will probably be after us if we don't go again soon". I am not talking about putting church on the bottom of the list or moving it around on the list depending what sport season it is. I am talking about making it a top priority because after all Jesus purchased it with his blood. So because indeed His blood has been shed and you are forgiven and because you are free - go on vacation and don't come to church this weekend. I'll see you when you get back and I will see you faithfully as you live out the gospel in your presence and in your absence.