“No one, having put their hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kin-dom of God.” – Luke 9:62
During my time in devotion and meditation the last couple of days, and in the midst of people not being able to worship together in sanctuaries, the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman in John 4 entered my spirit.
The impact of COVID-19 continues to be shocking and sobering in its impact on EVERY aspect of our lives. Caused by a detour, this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman reveals two characteristics of Jesus’ character and leadership: human rights activist and evangelist in realizing God’s kin-dom. On the subject of where and how to worship in John 4:21- 24, Jesus redefines worship as not just the coming together in a particular sanctified place, but as sanctified persons coming together with God in spirit and truth. Hence, the church at worship is not limited to a place somewhere.
Followers of Jesus Christ at worship are a liberatory experience with God’s presence everywhere! Such worship is liberatory, not because of its liturgical nature, but because of its incarnational nature. Incarnation infected by Spirit and guided by Truth! While worship doesn’t have to be a test in endurance of boredom, it doesn’t have to be a spirited infusion of shallow entertainment. Truth be told!!
John records part of this encounter-by-detour in chapter 4:23-24 as follows, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship God in spirit and truth, for such is the worship that God seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth.”
Hence, as followers of Jesus, and not fans of denominations, congregations or pastors, being the church at worship invites an updated understanding of what it means to be the church at worship.
Moreover, it instructs us into upgraded ways of being the Church at worship:
-If you need to shelter in place, you might as well worship in place, beginning with personal worship. The significance of familial and public worship depends on the quality of your personal worship
-In addition to doing worship differently, review, reposition and relaunch your personal spiritual disciplines with friends, family and technology, e.g. prayer, meditation, Bible study, journaling, etc.
-Utilizing technology, unleash your creativity by turning your worship service into worship through service by way of acts in compassion towards humanity and all of creation.
Followers of Jesus Christ at worship is a liberatory experience with God’s presence everywhere! Divine presence characterized by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as described throughout the Acts of the Apostles:
-celebration of people’s humanity and dignity through the power of visibility
-celebration of multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-generational inclusion
-celebration of incarnational worship in place, reaching beyond the walls of your home
-celebration of equality and equity within community as integral to your spirituality
The Holy Spirit, not dogma or ideology or denomination, is the great equalizer! Hence, such experience can be liberatory worship, because you have direct access to your Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
Followers of Jesus Christ at worship is a liberatory experience with God’s presence everywhere! Liberatory divine presence is also characterized by the pursuit, practice and promotion of truth. It’s said that the first casualty of war is truth. If we’re at war with COVID-19 , then this saying is correct.
With the daily mass denial and mass deception emanating from the White House, we have no choice but to declare President Trump as a weapon of mass distraction and destruction! Truth facilitates freedom and empowerment, hope and constructive engagement. (John 8:32). Truth enhances trust and advances unity. Optimism informed by ignorance and arrogance is an ally to COVID-19 and will result in mass destruction.
Worship in place, re-learn, re-kindle and reset your direct connection with God. For such a time as this, you’ll realize resurrection EVERYDAY. In the words of that great hymn:
“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way (impacted by COVID-19)
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.”
Your daily access to God’s resurrection power will make your worship in place liberatory! People will be blessed! Lives will be saved! COVID-19 will be conquered! God will be glorified!
So, if you miss coming together in a sanctuary at some address, turn your address into a sanctuary, create an altar in your home and get together for worship with family and friends – in person or online. Your familial and virtual community will grow in quantity & quality, substance and significance. For such times as these, Jesus redefines worship as not just coming together in a particular sanctified place, but as sanctified persons coming together with God in spirit and truth.
Could this also be what Joshua meant when he declared, “As for me and my house, we will worship and serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Be safe in your activities! Stay well in your engagements! Be intentional in your advocacy! Serve extravagantly in your endeavors!
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Pastor Kelvin Sauls is the former Senior Pastor of Holman UMC. A faith-rooted Community Organizer in the areas of social justice and racial equity, he currently serves as the Network Strategist with Community Health Councils, a City Commissioner with the Los Angeles Housing Authority (LAHSA) and on the Pastoral Team at Peace Chapel Church in South Los Angeles.