Dressed in our “hanging around the house clothes” my wife and I sat in front of the television in our recliners, feet slightly elevated. It was time for the church service. There on the TV was Pastor Veenstra, our pastor, standing in his library as he spoke to the invisible congregation in front of him. He gave a few words of encouragement, read some scripture, and lamented the fact that we were not together. The scene quickly shifted to the front of the empty sanctuary. A few musicians joined the pastor in familiar songs and hymns. All the pieces were there; Invocation, Salutation, Confession & Pardon, Scripture read and proclaimed, Congregational Prayer and Benediction. We sang along with the music, bowed our heads for the prayers and recited the Apostle’s Creed.
Afterward, my wife and I had to make our own coffee, and we had only each other to talk with. Admittedly, the coffee was better than that served during fellowship hour, but the conversation lacked diversity.
In the old days, the Israelites would walk up the hill to the Temple in Jerusalem, singing their “Songs of Ascent”, one of which says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord!’”(Psalm 122) It was important for them to worship God together; to hear the Word of the Lord proclaimed together, to pray together.
There is something significant going on when we enter the sanctuary together. We are the church, but we meet in God’s house. There is something about seeing each other’s faces, shaking hands, giving hugs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and commiserating with with those who mourn. It’s about time for the “snowbirds” to return from Florida and Arizona. I want to hug them and say “Glad you’re back!”
We are the redeemed, full of gratitude toward a merciful God, eager to hear Him speak to us in scripture as exposited for us by Pastor Veenstra. And sometimes we celebrate the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper together, passing the bread and cup, smiling; grateful.
I’m grateful to our pastor, the musicians and the technicians who made possible our virtual, homebound service on Sunday. But virtual is not the same as reality; it never will be. Merciful God, please bring this crisis to an end, soon please, so that we your people may once again gather in your house to worship you, the Living God.