I miss church. I miss seeing you at to worship. I miss the gathering of the church school children. I miss hearing the choirs sing and the congregation blend their voices in song as we belt out some of those favorites. I miss the Lord's Supper and sharing the meal with you as we are assured that the Lord is with us. I miss baptizing babies and sharing the joy of this special moment of God proclamation of love. I miss shaking your hand after worship. I miss the rhythm of worship, that predictable flow of the Lutheran liturgy that has cradled me through the good times and the hard times in my life. It is not the building that I crave. It is the experience of the Divine. So where is God, the Divine One, when we can't gather for worship?
In the Old Testament, our nomadic forebearers, traveled with God. For them, God was located, at least in part, in the Ark of the Covenant as they journeyed toward the promised land. But there were other places and situation where God was found. In Genesis, God is found walking in the Garden. Exodus tells the account of God talking to Moses through a burning bush. In I Kings, Elijah meets God at Mt. Horeb: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire, and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. The writer makes it quite clear that God is not in the destructive forces, but God's voice comes after the silence, speaking clearly and with directive to Elijah.
When Samuel was a young boy, God's voice called out to him, but Samuel mistook the voice to be that of Eli his mentor. Jeremiah was called by God as a young boy and wondered whether he was up to the task of serving the Lord. God spoke words assuring Jeremiah not to fear, that God would take care of him.
Then came Jesus who changed everything as he brought hope to the world. Jesus could be found in the temple teaching and preaching. But he could also be found on the hillsides, teaching and caring deeply for people who seemed like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus could be found curing the sick and feeding the hungry. He was present with his followers teaching them how to love and serve others. It is in Jesus that his disciples saw God. It is at the cross more came to believe, Mary came face to face with Jesus at his empty tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener, but Jesus identifies himself and empowers her to announce to the disciples “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18b)
Following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the twelve in the upper room bringing peace and the Holy Spirit to replace their fears. Later he appeared to Thomas as he struggled with doubt.
Another time, as two of the disciples walked on the road to Emmaus, Jesus joined them, and they shared a meal. It was only during the meal that the disciples recognized this companion to be Jesus.
Today, Jesus continues to be alive and active in the world through the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we need to worship together, and at this point we must do so remotely. However, we patiently await the day when it is safe and the time is right for all of us to gather as a community of Christ. We don't know quite what that will look like yet. We can be assured that even though we are not worshipping in the church sanctuary, Christ through the Holy Spirit continues to make his home in us.
For now the church building will remain empty at worship time. Yet, that doesn't mean that God is not with us. The Holy Spirit is at work in each of you. You are being Christ in the world, as we care for each other, as we observe social distance to protect one another, as we share the gift of faith with others who may be having a hard time dealing with the fragility and struggles of life right now. We can't be a Christian without the faith community, so for now we gather the best we can. I am heartened to hear of fellowship groups and study groups continuing to gather.
Even though we worship alone or with our families around the computer or television screen, we can be assured of the divine presence is with us in water as we give thanks for baptism, in the good news shared in the Word, and as we are blessed to go out in our restricted ways to share God's love. Martin Luther once said, “Should anyone knock at my heart and say, “Who lives here?” I should reply, “Not Martin Luther, but the Lord Jesus Christ”. Our Divine Lord is making a home in you. You are a part of the body of Christ, the Church, sent out in love to share Jesus in the way that you have been called to love and serve in the world. I thank God for you!
Pastor Pam Schroeder