Jesus once promised that where two or three are gathered, that His Spirit would be with us. But how does that work in the age of coronavirus, where we are forced to have worship services digitally?
How are you holding up, gentle listener? This is a challenging time for all of us as the corona virus continues to reach out and affect and disrupt our lives together.
Here in Ohio earlier this week, the Governor issued a stay at home order. We are not the first state to be under such and order, and we won’t be the last. Most of our churches have already volunteered to shut down their in person meetings and worship. For the second week in a row, my spouse and I sat together on the couch on a Sunday morning and gathered with almost 200 people to give thanks to God and to pray for/with one another.
At that worship, and specifically during the Children’s sermon, the Rev. Beau Dansizen shared that one of the children asked him: “If God is in the sanctuary, then how can God be with us when we are sitting at home?”. Pretty perceptive – and a very good question.
Beau’s answer is what I want to reflect on. He reminded the children that Jesus told us that whenever two or three gather in his name, he is there. As he said that, I immediately thought about my Mimi and me – sitting there on the couch sharing the screen on my laptop. We were the two gathered, and I found it very gratifying to know that just the simple act of us being two also made it possible for the Spirit of the risen Christ to also be with us.
We are going to continue to experience each other in many different ways; and we will also be surprised by the capacity that God has to render meaning in our lives as our worship practices broaden.
Even those who live alone, and who sit by themselves at the computer screen while attending worship are not really alone. The Spirit of God pervades all the spaces our bodies occupy; and neither time nor distance alters in any way her capacity to draw us together. It may be a new way for us to think about ‘where two or three gather,’ but the gathering feels real even when it is digital.
Every Sunday I open Google Hangout and play with my grandchildren. Elizabeth, who is one year old, brings her favorite stuffed animal to show me; while Jacob, who just turned five, brings whatever new lego he built. We laugh and dance and even play hide and seek together. Would I rather be there with them? Of course – but maintaining that connection even when I can’t be right there with them matters. It builds and strengthens our relationship.
And so it is with those who are used to being in worship spaces together. God isn’t going to NOT show up just because our gathering is more digital than personal. The connection we crave can be satiated by sitting with a loved one, or alone, on your couch or at your kitchen table.
One of the things I am loving about this is the whole time the worship is unfolding, the chat function on Zoom or FaceBook live is constantly being used. People are commenting on how beautiful the song being played is; or about prayer concerns they want lifted up; or how that particular line in the sermon meant so much to them. We really don’t make space for that in our face to face worship – and I find myself making even deeper connections with those gathered online because of that.
When Jesus said he would be with us when two or more gather - maybe he didn’t anticipate what digital technology would render us capable of doing to transform our being together. But I discern that he has kept that promise as we meet by internet rather than in sanctuary.
God is good, we often say. And the reply is ‘all the time.’ Corona virus may require our distancing from one another physically, but spiritually we work with the Creator of all this is good and discover She will find a way to meet us under any circumstances. Let that abiding presence continue to enrich your life on this, our journey Into the Mystic.