“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20b
At a couple of recent weddings, I was reminded how important it is to show up for the people we love. In one case, the wedding was in another language. A number of us who knew one another sat unable to comprehend the things that were being said and not knowing, really, the traditions being practiced. It wasn’t until about an hour into the service, when the bride and the groom stood up with the minister and exchanged rings, that I recognized what was happening as a wedding. Did I go to that service to see a pretty and predictable wedding and to hear a message about love? If that had been my reasoning, I’d have left disappointed. I didn’t go to that wedding for me. No, I went to that wedding because of my support of this bride and her family. Another wedding was of a family friend. My husband Tom has watched this girl grow up and he wanted to be there for her especially as an extended member of the “family” we’ve created over time. There were other things competing on that day, but we kept our schedules clear so we could attend. I do not regret showing up in either situation. I’ve come to believe showing up might be one of the most important things we do.
Sometimes, showing up requires great sacrifice. People prioritize where they will be, and there are days when they’d really like to be in multiple places at once, but can’t. Probably the most difficult thing about showing up is doing it consistently. I know of families that have been to every one of their child’s soccer games. I know of mothers who move heaven and earth to ensure their kids get to the rehearsals and lessons. I know of friends who travel across the country to attend a special birthday. I know of graduation parties that compete with one another over the same weekend. I know of the inconvenient but important visits to the hospital rooms, the long lines outside the funeral home, the hand-holding when there’s a crisis. Our time, our energy, even our awkward efforts, make a tremendous difference in the lives of the people on the receiving end. Showing up for one another, really, is what life is all about.
Showing up can also include being present to your faith community. We’re entering a time of holidays and stressed itineraries. It might seem like going to that special service or event might just be one more thing at a busy time, something easily eliminated. But these events give us an opportunity to show up for one another—the people being prayed for, the people coming for connection, the children needing instruction, the people who have put effort into putting it all together, the serving elders and deacons, the choir members, and the church staff. More than that, our worship together is a conscious effort we make to show up for God. Of course, God is found in many more places than our little corner in Dilworth. However, we’ve designated this time and this space as a sacred opportunity to reconnect and make God a priority, first in our thoughts, first in our hearts, even if only for an hour or so out of our week. Since God is always showing up for us, being part of the community of faith is one way we give thanks and show up for God.
Since we’re only about a week away from Thanksgiving, now might be a wonderful time to consider who those people are in your life who came to the events and milestones that were most important to you, those people who did “show up,” even when it was hard. Some of those people are now part of the Great Cloud of Witnesses. Some of those people may have moved away. Some may have stayed in place, even as the relationships changed, and disappeared from your life. And others may still be in your life, interested in how you’re doing and cheering you on. While not everyone is able to show up, those who do are a treasure. And, as our current sermon series “Matters of Death and Life” illustrates, our time here on this earth is limited. It is time to figure out when it is of the utmost importance to show up, and to recognize the ways our God shows up for us, too—oftentimes through the people who have demonstrated love and care when it was mattered to you most.
This Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for those who show up, and pray to become better and better at making an effort for those people we love. May we give thanks together for Jesus, who has promised to show up for us even to the end of the age.