I received an email from our local pastors association wondering if anyone is canceling Sunday worship due to forecasted snow and below zero temperatures. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter, which I assure you were not shared by all. :)
I believe these are teachable moments.
When people are considering staying home because of cold or inclement weather, I sometimes send out an email reminding our congregation to consider the risks the persecuted church around the globe takes each Sunday when they gather in secret to worship under the threat of death or imprisonment.
I also tell the story I heard of the underground church that waits until the coldest day of the year, and at 2 am when the rest of the village sleeps, they go out onto a distant frozen lake for their baptism service. In sub-zero temperatures, under the cover of night, they drill a hole in the ice, strip the new believer naked and baptize them into the freezing water because that’s when they’re least likely to be caught by the authorities. You know such a baptismal faith is real and genuine!
For me, it seems inconsistent to preach a faith that demands we step out of the comfort of our boats to walk on water, if the next moment we warn people not to step out their front door into the cold/snow in order to come worship! (Of course, a qualifier is included for the elderly who physically cannot make it. But that’s not whom I’m challenging.)
Churches shouldn’t take our cues from the school district closings, but instead the bold faith of the apostles and the urgency of our message and the awesomeness of our God we come out to worship. Can we suffer a few chills or risk snowy roads in order to worship a Savior who suffered unspeakable agony for our redemption? How can we call people to take up their cross to follow Jesus one Sunday, and not call them to take up their ice scrapers and snow brushes the next?
Again, these are teachable moments…if we dare call our people to march to a different beat than the fear-mongering, comfort-seeking culture around us. I pay little attention to the weather forecasters anymore. I consider them nicely dressed, smiling “weather terrorists” who spread fear and disrupt our everyday lives unnecessarily.
As an example, this morning before 9am, our daycare already announced early closure for 3:30pm due to forecasted snow and cold. Its now 3:00pm as I write and still no snow yet. Unfortunately, dozens of parents now have to rearrange their work schedules, cancel meetings, etc. in order to pick up kids only an hour or so early! Really??? They couldn’t remain open until 5 so parents could finish up their regular work days? But that’s the powerful influence of the weather-terrorists.
While I make an obvious exception for elderly and disabled people who physically cannot come out in such weather, for the rest of us able bodied folks, I think inclement weather is a great opportunity to demonstrate the depth of our commitment to God, our desire to worship Him, our grasp of our call to live lives of sacrifice and risk-filled obedience.
There are reasons for the decrease in the size and strength of the American Church, and it has nothing to do with the cold weather outside, but rather the lukewarm temperature of our faith and commitment.
So, surprise your pastor this Sunday, and honor your God, by showing up for worship even if it means putting on more layers, leaving earlier and driving more slowly.
Just my 2 cents. Take it with a grain of salt…or frankincense or myrrh.