July 28, 2020

When I was a boy, there were times when I was a real stinker.  My parents punished me by either grounding me, giving me extra chores, or spanking me.  They punished me because they loved me but it sure didn’t look like love to me.  I never said, “I know they love me because they are punishing me.” 

Sometimes love does not look like love.  This is the world in which we live today.

For a congregation to gather together to worship God is an act of love.  It is a sacred, corporate moment.  It would seem that a church that does not open its doors for worship, is a church that does not love God.  That is not true.  It is just the opposite. 

A church that does not open its doors because the coronavirus is ravaging communities and has killed over 140,000 people in our country, is a church that loves God and its people.

This morning’s news reports a church in Strawberry, Alabama, shut down worship services this past Friday, after more than forty members contracted the coronavirus.  Masks were not required.  The pastor said,  “We let everybody do what they felt like. … If you were comfortable shaking hands, you shook hands. If you didn’t, you didn’t.”

That church decided loving God meant continuing to gather for worship.  Now they have shut down.  It was their choice and while I don’t agree with their reasoning for exposing everyone to a deadly disease, I believe they were doing what they thought was right.  Our church has chosen a different path.

As of now, all our worship services are conducted online.  The only people in the church on Sunday mornings are the audio/visual team, musicians and singers, liturgists, and pastors.   To me, it is a surreal experience to worship God in this way, but for our church, it is the right answer.  Not everyone agrees.

Recently, I was talking to a man in our church that I dearly love.  He wants the church open.  I told him I was not ready to do his funeral and I would let him know when I was.  While he wishes the church would open, he understands my reasoning.  It’s about love.

Someday, our Regathering Task Force will say it is time to come together.  That will be a great day and I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s face on Sunday mornings.  We will gather together to worship God as an act of love.

In the meantime, we gather online to worship God as an act of love.  Trust me, God gets it.  I truly believe it is God’s will that we continue in this fashion until the world is a safer place.

On Sunday morning, when you turn to whatever screen you are using for worship, Jesus is right there with you.  That’s what Jesus meant by saying:  “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) It is still a sacred, corporate moment. 

I never thought I would say that an act of loving God would be turning on a television, iPad, or computer, but it is.

Prayer:  Dear Gracious Heavenly God, help me clearly see the best way to love you, my neighbor, and myself.  Give me a mind filled with wisdom, a heart overflowing with grace, and a mouth filled with your praise.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Even though the doors to the sanctuary will remain closed, our church is working to find new and innovative ways to worship God.

This means on August 9th, we will have a worship service in one of the parking lots.  People will have the options of staying in their cars and listening over their radios or sitting in lawn chairs in front of their cars.  All social distancing protocols will be followed.  And while we won’t be able to shake hands, give hugs, or do many of the other things we do to convey love, we will be loving our neighbors and our God in a safe environment.  That’s what love looks like today.

I pray your day is filled with joy and laughter.
Tom Robbins