So, I have an admission to make: I forgot it was mother’s day this year. I had posted my mother’s present and card off early in the week, which my mum received a few days early and at least pretended she was grateful and (I hope) actually was. She happened to be out of the country and entirely uncontactable on the day. So my mother wouldn’t have felt forgotten (until she reads this). Of course, I hadn’t forgotten – I just discharged my filial responsibilities much earlier on.
My wife, on the other hand, did notice.
She blithely asked whether I was taking the ‘Dr Kelso approach’ to Mother’s Day this year. If you don’t know what that is, here is a brief transcript from Scrubs:
Dr. Kelso: What?
Dr. Kelso: And you?
J.D.: Nothing, sir. I don’t want anything from you, ever.
Dr. Kelso: You know, that’s what my son always says. But then when Mother’s Day rolls around, guess who wants me to go halvsies on a pasta pot for Enid?
J.D.: Well, sir, I…
Dr. Kelso: She’s not my mother!
It seems I expected far too much of my 4 and 2-year-old children. Apparently, they did not have the foresight to get a job, earn some money, go to the shops and buy their mother something nice to say thanks for looking after them. It’s almost as though they think our looking after them is their divine right! A shoddy attitude, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Needless to say, my wife was very gracious about it. Maybe she remembered the Valentine’s Day present I bought her despite not receiving one in return and how totally chilled I was about it* (I’m well chivalrous like that). Or maybe she remembered the fact that I was about to preach to 40 other people and nobody would be served well by her getting angry at me. Perhaps I was saved by her parents being around and she didn’t want to cause a scene – she did wait till we were in the car to drop that particular bombshell. I was suitably embarrassed and highly apologetic. She was, honestly, not unkind about it and very gracious.
The issue, in reality, was not that I forgot a present. The issue was that I hadn’t remembered to honour my wife on the culturally appointed day to do just that. That’s not a jibe at Mother’s Day at all, it is a recognition that I should have remembered. Now, my wife and I have a strong enough relationship that missing one such opportunity is not exactly going to end our marriage. She is aware that I didn’t do it on purpose and we have a far greater number of opportunities to show we care than one day per year. But, all the same, when we have an appointed day to remember someone and show that we love them – whether their birthday, an anniversary, mother’s day or whatever – it is easy to see how forgetfulness on these days can look a lot like a lack of care.
In church, we have a weekly opportunity to show how much we care for the Lord and his people. Of course, as a church, we have 7 days a week to show our care and concern too. But we appoint one day, in particular, to come together, worship God corporately and reaffirm our commitment to both the Lord and his people. Our meeting together – particularly our joining together in communion – is a sign of our love and commitment to one another as a local church of God’s people, united together in Christ. It marks our belonging to Christ and his people in a visible act as part of a visible body.
It is true that we may not meet together any one time for a whole host of reasons, some inevitably more credible and reasonable than others. But there can be no doubt that our failure to meet conveys something about the importance of what we are doing and signals something about our love of both the people and Lord to whom we belong. Just like forgetting Mother’s Day and the rest implies something about our love and care for a particular individual – even if it is not a finally and ultimately determinate something – so failing to prioritise the meeting together of ourselves implies something about those with whom we meet, even if it’s not finally and ultimately determinate of our feelings towards them.
We can acknowledge that someone who goes on holiday one Sunday in the year, but is with us the other 51, has shown their desire to meet with us and their absence that one week doesn’t particularly undercut the priority with which they view church. By contrast, someone who is continually away from the body and has little care for joining in communion with the Lord’s people – regardless of the reasons why – is conveying something quite clear about the priorities they hold in respect to the Lord and his people. The fact is, our regular remembrance of the Lord’s death and our presence (or lack thereof) indicates – albeit not finally and ultimately – to the rest of the church how much you do or don’t love the Lord and, similarly, how much you care or otherwise for them.
I forgot Mother’s Day. Thankfully, my wife knows that one day does not ultimately determine how much I value her. We might miss church any one week and the Lord, as well as his people, know that one day doesn’t ultimately determine how much we love them. But a pattern of being away may just communicate the opposite. The question is, do we value the Lord and his people enough to make them a priority? Do we remember the meeting together of ourselves or are we prone to forget because we just aren’t that bothered?