Since I started in my official role as Director of Discipleship, I have wondered — almost weekly — “What am I doing here? How in the world do we do discipleship in a COVID infected world?”
Some days, as I ponder and pray for an answer, my imagination is sparked with an idea or a hope for our people. Other days, I leave my time alone with God with an audible sigh and a shoulder shrug, not knowing how to offer space for our people to encounter and be transformed by Christ when that space consists of all of us sitting in front of fluorescent screens that fail to capture the true essence of who we all are during COVID times — uninterrupted sweatpant-wearers.
Amy recently posted on the Restoration Facebook account an article by Esau McCaulley, a canon theologian in our diocese, wrote for the New York Times about the inadequacy of worshiping online. While he explains the limitations of online services, he doesn’t then relieve the Christian of their need to attend these services — which would have been the logical conclusion. Instead, he steps back from the immediate frustration or isolation we may feel and reminds us of why the church, even in this limited form, exists:
“The very inadequacy of church services, Zoom and otherwise, is a reminder we do not come into churches to encounter a life lesson on how to raise our children or to learn to be good Americans, whatever that means. Our aim is much more audacious. We are attempting to encounter God and, in so doing, find ourselves, possibly for the first time.”
The audaciousness of the Church to believe that we can actually encounter the living God. That’s crazy…
Let’s take Zoom and COVID out of the equation and think about the ridiculousness of what we do together each Sunday, each Community Group, etc. We believe that God infleshed himself, died and raised from the dead, and sent his Holy Spirit to live within us. We believe that when we extend our hands and receive the bread and consume the wine, the presence of God is somehow in our midst. We believe that when two or more are gathered, God himself is with us.
Now, this is no heresy to point out, dare I say, the ridiculousness of the whole endeavor in Christ. St. Paul goes so far to say that that the foolishness of the cross is the very thing that saves.
What we do together, what we believe, whether we are on Zoom or not, is audacious in and of itself.
Whether it be Sunday worship, Community Groups, or Christian Education — the opportunities we have to get together as a church on Zoom — what would it look like for us to attend these flawed gatherings with our brothers and sisters in Christ with the audacious hope McCaulley extols? What would it look like for us to persevere in the church with the same foolish hope that raises the dead, saves us from our sins, and restores the entire created order back to its Maker?
And what if, by the sheer miracle of a gracious God who delights in our simple willingness to persist, we encounter Him?
Even on Zoom.