One of my favorite hymns is “Were You There.” It is slow and somber, re-telling the story of the crucifixion. It is one of those hymns you are mostly likely to sing in the vicinity of Good Friday.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? When they nailed him to the tree? When they pierced him in the side? When the sun refused to shine? When they laid him in the tomb? Were you there?
Of course, none of us who sings this song today was actually there as a physical witness. But our sins were there, Christ dying for them before they had even been committed. And in gratitude, our minds can go there, reliving the story through worship, remembering what has been done for us.
Whenever we enter worship, we have the opportunity to be there at the cross, and in the same service skip to the resurrection, experiencing the glory and the life-giving power of God.
As we near the end of summer, I am struck by how much so many have missed. Worship went on, but many of Christ’s beloved friends were not there—and I don’t think normal vacation cycles account for a lot of the absences.
Were you there when the risen Jesus walked beside us on the beach and on the road to Emmaus? Music and stories made those walks possible for two Sundays.
Were you there when we worshiped Christ in the parking lot, and then walked with our Lord among the neighborhoods around us? That Sunday, I saw Jesus in a teenage boy who was willing to pray with a lonely, frightened woman.
Were you there when the risen Savior helped us grow in Christian love, guiding us in how we speak to one another, how we care for one another, and how we are to be healed? Those Sundays, it was good to get to know his half-brother James, too.
Were you there when we opened our hearts and wallets for flood victims and Buffalo Mountain Camp? Jesus smiled broadly on those Sundays.
Were you there when God’s Spirit filled the bread and juice during communion, and then us? I would have hated to miss that special gift from Jesus.
Were you there when we sent the little ones out and talked about sex?
Were you there when a boy bravely stood before the congregation and admitted his deep loneliness one year after the death of his mother? Were you there to be the body of Christ and show that boy he is not alone?
If you’ve been missing worship, I don’t ask these questions to stir guilt. I ask them so you’ll remember that Christ is with us every Sunday, rain or shine, heat or cold.
Jesus loves you. He calls you home to worship, promising he’ll be there.