Welcome Home or a New Beginning?
As the church has re-opened: for worship; for groups and classes of the congregation; for groups and organizations that help our community, we might be thinking: “Finally we can go back to the way it was,” or we might also think, “What old ways didn’t work anymore and in what new ways might God be calling us to Love in the world.” Or… maybe you have both those kinds of thoughts. I do.
It has been a long and challenging time for all of us - in some similar ways and also in some different ways. Each of us has experienced this pandemic and its effects on the world around us in our own ways. Many have lost friends and loved ones, if not to Covid directly, then in the strange times of increased isolation and caution about gathering together to grieve and to support one another. Many of us have learned new ways to communicate and gather, in families, and in groups, and even in the church, through the use of technologies we never knew we would need or appreciate.
I certainly understand a desire to return directly to the “before time;” I have that too. But it has also been exciting to be able to see and be with friends, family, and far off neighbors without having to travel in poor weather, through traffic or crowded airports. And it has been a blessing to see and be in the presence of those who have not been able to travel, the few miles or the hundreds of miles, to hear the message of Love, and sing songs of grace, and redemption, and challenge, even if we were usually on “Mute.”
I suspect very few of us live in the same house that we’ve occupied our whole lives. Even so, each place we have lived has been a home for us. When we say that the church is God’s house, we don’t literally mean that that is the only place God lives and be encountered. In fact, we usually don’t even mean the building itself, but rather all those who may gather in Jesus’ name. As we have had different houses to call home over the years, and they have had different styles and qualities, so our local church has had different people, in the building and in the gathered community, with different styles and qualities. The church, God’s house, is never always the same place – unless we say it is the place where all are welcome. As we begin to gather again in the church building, let us remember that while we may feel we are coming home and going back to the familiar, God is always moving and doing new things in the world; Jesus Christ is always calling us to follow him more closely; and the Spirit is empowering us in ways we could not imagine yesterday, let alone fifteen months ago.
As we begin to return to our beautiful and historic building, let us be thoughtful of the needs of others. Some may need more time to feel safe in larger public gatherings. Some may need to keep wearing masks for health or safety reasons. Some may still want to participate by watching the recording of the service or by watching the Zoom feed at their kitchen tables for any reason they would like. What we can do is support one another in doing church in the right way for ourselves. Will we miss sitting next to or behind our friends and neighbors? Almost certainly. I believe Jesus would remind us we have more neighbors than we realize. I would remind us that we have plenty of seats in the building that we can use. Will you check in on a friend or neighbor who is not coming into the building on Sunday morning? Will you invite a new friend or neighbor, or even a family member to sit with you? This is how the church and Christ’s ministry in the world has always grown.
Is God welcoming us home or is God urging us on to a new beginning?
The answer is, “Yes.”