Bishop and Christian*, August 2016

Pick Your Pew

We’ve all heard the jokes about (or maybe known) people who were very particular about “their” pew in church. At the least, they were annoyed by people sitting where they normally sat; at worst, they brusquely told the person (perhaps a visitor), “You’re sitting in my pew!” I think that happens pretty seldom anymore, and rightly so.

However, there is something to be said for picking a seat and sticking to it week after week after week. Certainly not in order to make visitors feel unwelcome when they sit in “our” pew. But for another reason. Imagine a Christian congregation where people are very intentional about sitting in the same places every week. Imagine where you would sit. And then think of the faces around you. What if the person next to you were missing from the Lord’s house for a week or two, and you decided to give that person a call because you missed his or her presence where the Lord is present? Imagine a congregation (this one!) where the Lord’s Word and His Body and Blood are so integral to the Christian life, so formative of the communion of God’s holy ones, that a missing member of the Body of Christ is a missing part of us. These are the people whom God has placed here, and there is not a single one who is dispensable.

To be honest, when I see 100 people, give or take, on a Sunday, it takes me sometimes three or four weeks to note every person who may have missed a week or two—just as each of you probably only note a couple people whom you haven’t seen for a while. When I do notice, I visit or give the person a call, but I can’t do it by myself. That’s why we are all members of the Body of Christ in this place, and not only the pastor. If you sit roughly in the same place each week, you will begin to notice who was sitting next to you last week, who might not be sitting next to you this week. And if we all care enough about the absence of an vital part of Christ’s Body, no one’s empty spot will go unnoticed. We care about each member of Christ’s Body in this place. I think that is one of the most significant purposes of local congregations: to care for each person so that no person slips away without someone noticing.

So as fellow Christians, let’s not assume that someone else noticed the gap next to you on your pew. When you don’t see a fellow member of the Body of Christ for a week or two, give that person a call; let him or her know that there’s a space next to you on that pew, that he or she is missed and important, and that the holy and life-giving Gifts of Christ are given out each week for every member of Christ’s Body.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

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