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03.15.20 To the People of Faith Presbyterian

by on March 15, 2020

Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Today was already to be a unique Sunday in the life of our church. We were to have a shortened service of worship, followed by an extended offering of service as worship. Now we understand how unique it actually is.

Three days ago the Session made the extraordinary decision to cancel weekly worship services for four weeks, despite this being one of the holiest times of the year in the church’s calendar. We’ve also directed small groups to be especially vigilant in their gatherings.

These decisions were made in faith, hope, and love. Faith that God can provide for the spiritual well-being of the members of Christ’s Body outside of corporate worship. Hope that with precautionary action, we may slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and allow for the medical community to care for the sick and find a cure. And love for the members of our community who are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of the virus.

Some might wonder how the church can be the church without corporate worship. You know that this question fueled my doctoral studies in liturgical theology. In fact, however, there has always been a relationship between official worship and personal devotion—and often in the history of the church that relationship has been strained. And while we have a more thorough record of the church’s official worship through liturgical documents, we also acknowledge the sustaining power of personal devotion.

To be more to the point, canceling worship as we have done has caused many of us—scholars, pastors, and people in the pews—to recognize anew this parallel life in the church. You are a child of God even if we cannot baptize you at this time. You are one with Christ even if we cannot break one bread. You may hear God speak to you through Scripture apart from a prayerfully discerned and studied sermon.

Most importantly, you don’t need a shortened worship service to prepare you to serve in your life as worship. This has been your calling all along. And the world, especially now, needs us to be the church in service as worship.

We must serve those in need, speaking words of assurance to an anxious people that God is steadfast and faithful. We must serve those in need, providing for those whose resources have run out. We must serve those in need, protecting those whom society easily overlooks as unimportant. We must serve those in need, praying for those who care and provide for others, who protect and govern our communities.

“What shall I do now that worship has been cancelled?” The answer is, “Worship God!”—not with organ, choir, sermon, and sacrament—but with love in service to others. This morning take time to listen for God’s Word. I was to preach on Luke 14:12-24. There Jesus instructs his disciples to invite those who have no status to join them at a meal. They were already having a meal, so the teaching would apply to the next opportunity.

Our next opportunity to have a meal with Jesus is April 12, Resurrection Sunday. Beginning today you might pray that God would lead you to those whom you may not only serve, but whom you may also invite to join us at the Lord’s Table.

Go in peace to serve the Lord. Amen.

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