Two adults, one three-year old boy, and one baby girl (with all the accompanying baby supplies) had everything we needed for a week packed into two small carry-ons and two backpacks. Though that particular trip was a while ago now, I am still amazed by my wife’s packing skills. We had to pack light because we were flying, using public transportation, and walking around a city. Conditions demanded only the essentials. Not many of us are doing much traveling now, but when you have traveled in the past, think about what you packed. For a long trip with plenty of luggage space, you might pack more heavily. For a shorter trip where baggage space is at a premium, you might be more discerning in what you take. “Just the essentials,” you might think to yourself. But what is essential for some might not be for another. Think about when Alex is taking our students on a trip. Some of the girls have suitcases the size of transatlantic shipping containers. Some of the guys, on the other hand, get on the bus with a pillowcase filled with dirty socks and a can of Axe body spray. “Essentials” can be a relative expression.
We have heard a lot lately about “essential” versus “non-essential”, whether the discussion involves household items or people in the workforce. Throughout this process I think all of us have been forced to reevaluate our definition of “essential.” I know toilet paper and truck drivers get a lot more respect than they did three months ago! From a spiritual standpoint, we as believers have the unique opportunity to use this time to reevaluate what is truly essential, both in our personal lives and in the church. In our personal lives, many of the extracurricular activities and busyness has been stripped away. In our church, many events, programs, and trips have been suspended, cancelled, or postponed indefinitely. I think all of us have a new appreciation for the simple act of gathering together as a church family. While technology is a helpful tool, nothing can replace that. I’m thankful for the ways for have worked to stay connected during this time.
One of the best things I have seen throughout this season is the increase in actual, physical letter writing. I have been so encouraged by the Sunday school teachers and church members who have taken the time to write cards to people. Thank you! My kids love getting real mail! It’s good to remember that without letters, we wouldn’t have a significant portion of the New Testament. Paul expressed in one of his letters to the church in Corinth what he considered essential. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 he writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”. This is Paul’s summary of the good news of Jesus Christ; the gospel! That is what was essential to the church in Corinth 2000 years ago and that is what is essential to North Shelby Baptist Church today. We celebrated the resurrection differently this year than we have before, that does not change the essential truth of the gospel! People have expressed being ready to “get back to normal” and I get that. I hope things begin to resemble normal. But do we really want it all back? In terms of being a Christian and being the church, I do hope things look a little different. I hope we return to routine with a refined definition and renewed focus on what is truly essential: the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again in accordance with Scripture. May that be the message we pack into everything we are and everything we do. And like Paul, may we be actively delivering that message as of first importance. After all, it is essential.