It was great over Easter to have friends and family staying with us. It was better than a phone call, or face book message or even a Skype conversation. They were not just telly-present but truly present. All that we are and all that God wants to do through us cannot be sent down a wire.
There is something so significant about presence. The bible warns against neglecting to meet together. Why? So that we can “encourage one another” (Heb 10:25).
Paul writes one of the most profound, theologically rich letters to the church in Roman which must have been as massively helpful to them then as it is to us now but he says right at the start that he longs to be with them. Why? So that:
“I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you– that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. (ESV) Rom 1:11-13
His physical presence will enable him to impart spiritual gifts to strengthen them. I am not quite sure what he means but its shows us that God loves to work through us by his Spirit to strengthen one another when we are together. It is also very encouraging to be with others who are stepping out in faith. Just like birds and bicyclists Christians move faster and more efficiently as a group.
Sometimes just the fact that someone turns up to be with you can be encouraging. Whether its coming to your house for coffee or attending a larger more formal meeting it provokes the response “Wow, you took time to be with us. Thanks!”.
There is no doubt about it. When we get together, God shows up. We can be sure of it because Jesus says “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Mat 18:20). God is there with us when we shut the door to be with him alone (Mat 6:6, 1 Cor 6:19-20) but he is also there in a complementary way when we gather with others in his name (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 6:16). I suspect a key part of that is in the operation of spiritual gifts to build up the church. It’s great when God speaks to you on your own but when someone else delivers a prophetic word to you that includes things about you that only God would know it is super-strengthening.
We are temples of the holy Spirit individually, but also collectively. We are designed to fit together to house the presence of God, and when he is at home the lights go on. Lights of love, power, healing, teaching, salvation, helping, organising, correction, direction, joy. You name it. As we come together he comes to us and shows up among us. No wonder faith rises and spiritual gifts flow.