Patterns and habits (13-08-21)
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. (Acts 20.7)
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10. 19 – 25)
A Thought Although I watch a lot of television, I am not the greatest fan. If I am home alone, I am just as likely to spend the evening on the phone to friends and family or doing something creative. However, personal habits and patterns of behaviour within individuals and within society do change from time to time, and this has been heightened by the various Covid lockdowns and other restrictions.
Long winter evenings during lockdown has led us to much more television than usual. With the advent of boxsets, I-player and Netflix, we can now access pretty much whatever we want whenever we want. Like many others, we have had many relaxed evenings of binge-watching episodes of a series end to end. Different habits have formed, and even with light, warm summer evenings, the television began to win out over pottering in the garden or going for an evening stroll.
So what about our patterns of church worship? During the lockdowns, we were able to continue to worship as a benefice using pre-recorded services online. There are many positives, and we were also able to draw in the housebound and those are the margins of church who wanted to join us anonymously to dip a toe in the water of worship. Some of us undoubtedly tuned in at 10am each Sunday, but, judging by the numbers recorded on YouTube, many were watching the service throughout the week at times convenient to them personally. Now we are back to a pattern of regular services in church with a recording of one service put online later in the day. I wonder… are we out of the church routine with other things to occupy our Sunday morning? If we miss a few Sundays, do we now binge-watch to catch up, or do we just not bother at all?
In the very earliest years of the Christian community, Luke records in Acts that believers gathered together at a set time each week for worship. Other first century documents confirm this. Disciples came together to confess their sins, to give thanks, to pray and to break bread. This act of gathering was an expression of unity and solidarity as well as a way of encouraging one another.
As a result of the death of Jesus, we can all draw near to God whenever we want, the way is open and we are welcome. However, the writer to the Hebrews goes on to address the issue of meeting together at a regular time in a regular place. And he speaks directly: ‘Don’t give it up!’ He knows how easy it is for us to unintentionally drift. He wants to re-establish regular routines and habits in which the believers will spur one another on and encourage one another in their walk of faith. Let’s take the hint and do the same!
A Prayer Lord of the Church, you have called us as one body, help us to build good patterns and routines to sustain our faith day by day. Amen.
One heart, one spirit by Dave Bilbrough