A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. -John 4:23
In December 2019, our entire world changed. By March of 2020, we were isolated or quarantined as the Covid-19 pandemic began its rapid spread across the globe.
For Christians, the thing that was most impacted was church attendance. We were not prepared for the sudden shift and many of our churches struggled in the beginning. However almost two years later, we are still here, and we are still having church. Over time, our definition of church shifted but we are still meeting together as best we can.
Some congregations have figured it out and are meeting in person. Some congregations have decided to offer hybrid services (in-person and virtual) permanently. Some churches are still trying to figure out in-person worship. Many of us would agree that the pandemic has forever changed our definition of what church is and can be.
One could argue that church can be defined as a gathering of two or more, whether physical or virtual, whether long-term or short-term, where God is present. While we may not do all the typical church activities in the same ways, we are still able to feel God’s presence. That is what is most important.
The Gospel writer reminds us of this in John 4:23, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”
In the past, our concept of worship was focused on what we could do in person, in buildings, closed off from the world. We gathered in these buildings and had begun to confuse in-person worship with worshipping in the spirit and truth. We confined God to a building and confined God to a certain denomination, style of worship, and order of service. We were faithful in this one way of worshipping, but at the same time, we regulated God to our imagination of what worship could be.
John 4:23 gives us an opportunity to remember what God would like to happen worship, and the pandemic has given us an opportunity to put our trust in the omnipresence of God. While it may not be our ideal, God is not sweating the small stuff. God is after our hearts. God is after relationship. God is after the experience. The whole point of worship is to experience God. Once we experience God, the rest will be just fine.
God is always there, waiting on us to answer the invitation to intimacy. The question is, does the activity in which we are involved help us to perceive, to answer, and to experience the call to be immersed in God’s love?
Recently, the talk show, The View, did a tribute to the return of Broadway. They highlighted the various rehearsals of well-known Broadway shows. One of the rehearsals captured me. It was the return of the Lion King.
From the moment that the actress who plays Rafiki, Tshidi Manye, opened her mouth to begin the signature song, “Circle of Life,” everyone knew that God was in that place. Those of us watching on TV felt God because she felt God. She may not call it God, but she felt God. She could only sing like that if she had been touched by Eternity. She and all present were in worship – the place where our humanity meets God’s divinity. They had church – a gathering of 2 or 3 or more where God is experienced, and because of it, we are never the same.
Link to Lion King Rehearsal: https://youtu.be/Lti-Hr-mqjE
As we continue to figure out business as usual in our churches, let’s enjoy the new thing that God is offering to us. Let us lean into worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
Prompt for Thought: Since the pandemic, how has your worship – your experience of God – been transformed. If we ever get back to church as usual, what is the one thing you want to take with you for in-person gatherings? How has God shown up for you during these last two years?
Prayer for the Journey: Dear God, thank you so much for never leaving nor forsaking us, even in a pandemic. Thank you for showing up for us in ways that we could never imagine. God, please continue to show us how to experience you. Please reach back to us as we reach to you in our various ways of worship and doing church. God, thank you for always reminding us that the way to worship you is in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.