DO I KNOW YOU???
Do you miss your beautician? Do you miss your barber? Do you miss your hair stylist? With the way this virus pandemic has been going many of us have had slight changes to our appearance; a little more “scruffier”. Imagine getting back to church sometime in the next month or two and saying to someone you know, “Sorry, I didn’t recognize you right away!” Of course, this happens with a time lapse. If we have not seen someone for some time, many years, you could possibly not recognize the person. There are some cousins I have not seen since I was a child and if I happened to pass by them in a mall today, they would be just another stranger.
Already it has been over a month since we have seen each other as a worshiping family of God. Will we recognize each other? As your pastor I need to let you know that even if we were in solitary confinement we are never alone. Therefore, I want to address being away from a Christian congregation. Of course, the best scenario by far is to be joined to a congregation in regular worship. After all, the term “church” literally comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” originally meaning to “call out” and soon was understood to call together. Stated simply, “church” means God’s or Christ’s body who are called. The first purpose of the call is to worship; however, being of the body means that we are together with Christ and others even if we are not physically together. This becomes apparent when we cannot physically see Christ, but we believe His promise that, “...and lo, I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Preceding that quote Jesus is telling the disciples to build up the Church by going “...into all the world...”
Therefore, the whole idea of “communion of saints” tells us that we are ‘with’ believers no matter how far away or even with those already passed from this mortal life.
Martin Luther had the privilege of preaching often to an academic congregation at Wittenberg and other places in Germany where he averaged about 120 sermons a year. However, on the American frontier where establishing mission congregations was important to Pastor Nussman, he may have been preaching most Sundays; however, the congregation did not expect to see him every Sunday. In fact, they expected the pastor would be elsewhere planting “new seeds”. It was not until 1835 that the St. John’s moved from holding one service to worshiping two times a month. We are also aware that during the Civil War worship did not take place over long periods of time at St. John’s.
After Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned with minimum human contact he never felt totally alone. Bonhoeffer gives us the great hope of worshiping together; but even a greater hope for our coming together upon Christ’s return. “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes...and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” I would add to Bonhoeffer’s observation that it also, “is not a bad picture of Easter morning!”
Blessings to all, Pastor Mark