“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” – Psalm 133:1
Some Sundays, church just keeps going, until suddenly it’s 5:00 in the evening before we leave for home. Those seven-ish hours of family time seem like moments, especially in such stark contrast to the fluorescent-lighted, slowly-ticking, desk-bound hours of the approaching Monday morning. Perhaps someday, church will indeed simply just keep going, and the drudgeries and disconnected in-betweens of temporal life will feel like a distant memory, happily escaped from, into a deeper commitment of fellowship.
I never used to go to The White Hart, never used to think of it as anything special. It was too trendy or too far downtown. I didn’t have anyone to go with, and I didn’t want to go alone–besides, it wasn’t really all that impressive, anyhow. I could get coffee at Starbucks, or anyplace else, really. I could brew up some Folgers Black Silk at home, or simply drink tea instead, or nothing at all.
I cannot now imagine any place better suited for a Sunday morning fellowship with my dearest friends, my family in Lynchburg. After wandering in, bundled up from a late-winter’s snow (perhaps the last before the true onset of Spring), my things find a place on the old, creaky wooden floor beside the chair I typically occupy, and I wander over to the counter for a cup of black coffee, freshly brewed from any of the flavorful Blackwater blends. I cradle the cup drowsily between my cold and achy hands, as is my usual custom, and I sip the warm and heartening brew near-incessantly as the others take their seats around the wooden tables, crowded together into an unruly and intimate cluster.
There is perhaps nothing quite so cheering and challenging as a profound indulgence in truly good coffee or a genuinely excellent meal, in the company of and in conversation with a fellowship whose heartbeats resound with Scripture, and whose lives reverberate with the beautiful surrender of an imperfect and ineffectual being to the perfect and perfecting will of God.
As the tree sinks its roots into the soil to gather water for its sustenance, as its limbs stretch desperately towards the enlivening sun, so do we together seek the Scriptures and pray for understanding–not somehow to gain an independence, nor even a preparedness for some task ahead, but instead because without it we would wither altogether. In communion, we commit ourselves to that very teaching, to the fullness of what we’ve read together, to the imitation of Christ’s unrestrained submissiveness–not because we could not each assent to these teachings individually, alone, but because in making such a commitment in unity with the others who’ve experienced this growth together, there is accountability, there is edification, and there is hope.
And as the afternoon winds down, we linger together, we eat or “visioneer” or chat, we ramble and we chuckle, we dream, discuss, and delight, we joke and we commune our way towards a slothful and reluctant parting. There is an unspoken gratitude in each parting embrace, wondering at the mercifulness of Providence in orchestrating these human lives to weave together thus into the Trinitarian dance, the joyously difficult and sacrificially liberating complexity of the Holy Spirit’s work. With such a wealth of blessedness, it is a wonder indeed that the mundane drudgeries of a work-week, that the minor annoyances of daily life, or that even the constant presence of physical pains could weigh down a mood and a contentment held aloft by such a bolster as the love and encouragement that this community, by God’s grace, affords. Still, would that there were many more Sunday-afternoons and Thursday-evenings in a week! And, again, perhaps, someday there shall be …