July 22, 2020
If I was glad that we were able to start meeting together again in person by the end of May, I am ECSTATIC that we are going to gather at one time, in one place, as one assembly this Sunday. Think of the difference.
Imagine the members of your family coming to your home at different times of the day, roaming through the kitchen, looking in the refrigerator for leftovers, warming them up in the microwave, and then each heading to their rooms to eat and spend the rest of their time on their computers, and then going to sleep. Once in a while you may bump into one of them coming and going from the laundry room or bathroom, but functionally, your home is no different than a motel, and the members of it do not really have to, nor need to make space for one another. If one doesn't come home for a while, perhaps moves out, or even dies, it really doesn't influence the daily life of the others. Over time, if it doesn't affect them, they will learn that it really doesn't matter who is there, who isn't, or who the who are.
Now, what if your family eats dinner together at least 5 times a week? At the beginning of the week, you plan the schedule. Even if you have to wait until 8:00 PM for the last member to get home, you know that, because that is your brother or sister, they are worth waiting on. You may be very hungry and a bit inconvenienced by having to adjust your schedule to accommodate others. You may be tempted to be envious of those who don't "have to" eat together as a family. Making space in your life for others helps you learn to love others more than yourself. Is the life of your brother worth waiting a couple of hours for dinner? Is the value of your sister worth sharing a meal together where you do not always get to pick the menu? Of course it is! Dinner together forces your heart to make room for others in your life in a way that drive-thru calorie consumption doesn't.
Every congregation has a choice. We can be a bag of marbles or a bag of grapes. By having two services, we are learning to be a bag of marbles. We are learning that we can choose between options: 1) 9.00 AM service - which works well if we have some projects we want to get done on Sunday 2) 11.00 AM service - which works well if we were out late on Saturday night and wanted to sleep in or 3) Live stream - which works well if we just don't feel like making the effort to get dressed and get there. After all, we don't see everyone at the same time anyway, what's the difference? These options may work well if you think of the church as a bag of marbles, but they do not work well if the church is going to actually be a church.
Now, I want to be very clear. I came up with the idea of having two services so that we could at least start gathering in person. At the same time, I knew that two services is not healthy over the long term, though it was better for us than not gathering at all. So, while I am glad that we are at least gathering and that I am not preaching to a camera, I am ECSTATIC that on this Sunday, we are gathering together. This means that on this Sunday, we are gathering as the church. This is why on this Sunday, we will be observing communion together. It's not communion without the community, and it's not a community without unity, and it's not unity without being together. (I think you get the point.)
This Sunday, we are gathering at 10:00 AM for an outdoor service. Can we start looking ahead to gathering again weekly as the church, at one time in one place? Yes. Wait, but what about Covid-19? What about physical distancing? What about kids and children's ministries? Can we start looking ahead to safely gathering again weekly at one time as a church and
providing space in our hearts and in our gathering for little ones and others and do it responsibly? Yes!! When will we do this? I do not know that. But I know this. We will because we must. After all, we are a congregation that is committed to being a church of grapes, like the Bible defines it and as our lives need it.
So, whether you sit in a chair, on the grass, under an umbrella, under a tent, in your car, truck, SUV or if you stand, I can't wait to see you. I can't wait for all of us to see all of us together so that we can sing together to the Lord and to one another, hear together, pray together, greet together, and rejoice together. This is church.
For the church,