It’s often said “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
We know that if for some reason we have had to be away from home for a night, a week, or longer, on our return it’s just wonderful to see everyone again and we appreciate them even more than when we left!
Sure, we phoned and texted. Sometimes we even FaceTimed and it was great to keep in touch, to be able to see the family’s faces and hear their voices, but how much better to be back home in person, fully present with one another once again.
So with church.
On Easter Sunday we hugely look forward to be able to gather again for live worship, for our all age worship, albeit socially distanced.
The worshiping life of the church is and always has been a participatory endeavour. Biblical worship is an embodied expression of adoration and allegiance. While it can include singing, it doesn’t only entail singing. It certainly doesn’t mean half listening as others sing, occasionally humming along, while sitting on the sofa sipping a cup of coffee!
As the communal worshiping life of the church has by necessity this past year been relegated to the same devices that carry our entertainment, many churchgoers have slid into a consumer mode. Now we’ve comfortably settled in as isolated audiences consuming worship content at the click of our individual buttons.
The post-pandemic future may very well be a hybrid of virtual and actual, at least for some time. For our congregation, this is primarily because some will not yet be ready to return in person but let’s not miss the context of those famous words from Nehemiah 8:10 “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The setting is essentially a worship service!
The story tells us that the people wept collectively upon hearing together God’s words read aloud. But Nehemiah instructs them: “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our LORD. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The “your” is plural. Together. One with the other.
We’ve lost much this past year in our isolation. Online technology has wonderfully helped hold us together. But it’s not enough. There is grieving, rejoicing, feasting, to be done—together, embodied, and fully present as one. May our longing lead us back home, to God and to one another.
Most Sincerely from Frank