Practicing the Presence
Posted on May 9th, 2019
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
After our Lord’s death and resurrection, the early Christians came together knowing that He would meet with them in a special way once again. Rather than going *to* church (their minds were not clouded with the notion that buildings or organizational structures were the Church), they came together *as* the Church to fellowship in His Presence.
And we might say they “practiced the Presence” in a number of ways or modes. “Christ has died, Christ is risen,” part of the earliest liturgy, was in some of their hearts an incredible *remembered* experience. Memories of lives shared together in the breaking of bread, in long journeys, and in the teaching of multitudes must have been vivid ones for many. Beyond memories of Christ’s presence, however, they knew by virtue of His Spirit descending on them at Pentecost that He was always present, indwelling them. In yet a third way, pertinent to what we are here considering, these early disciples knew that when they invoked Him, Christ would “come again” by His Spirit as they gathered to worship, hear the Word, and break bread (make Eucharist) together. 
Sharing in worship and the sacraments and journeying together as prayer partners are acts of faith in which we, like the early Christians, know our Lord will meet us. Pursuing fellowship with one another in Christ, we reject the consumer mindset and religious counterfeits for the sake of being encountered by the Risen One, the Objective Real. Persevering in His body is our joy and privilege, a blessed act of will by which we cultivate the virtue of hope.
Holy God, thank You for how You center Yourself in Your people. Thank you for Your dynamic, living Presence among us. Thank you for making Yourself known in the breaking of bread. Lord, I ask for an increase of faith that will empower me to live with joy and peaceful expectancy as a member of Your body. I invite You to illuminate any barriers, any unforgiveness or idolatry that is dulling my heart. Enable me to grow in maturity and freedom to celebrate Your risen Presence in Your Church.
 Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1989), 48.
Painting: 3rdc., mural of agape feast from the Catacombe di Priscilla [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons