On the phone last week with a member, it was my unhappy task to report that we had made the hard decision to go online-only for all our activities of the next couple of weeks, including Sunday worship, to help keep our community safe and do our part to limit the spread of Omicron. “We cancelled church,” I said with some dejection.
“No, Pastor!” came the swift reply. “Church is not cancelled – only the building. Only getting together in our building. We are still connected in so many ways! We reach out to each other on the phone. Some people bring care packages. We write to each other. Some of us still meet privately in small groups. Church is not cancelled!”
My spirits were immediately lifted, and I was so grateful for this word of grace. It felt like a direct word from the Lord and I said so to our member. Sometimes the pastor needs to be preached to as well.
I remembered a song I learned as a child in VBS that had lovely hand actions. Maybe you know it too.
I am the church.
You are the church.
We are the church together.
All who follow Jesus, all around the world -
yes, we’re the church together.
The church is not a building.
The church is not a steeple.
The church is not a resting place.
The church is a people…
The children’s song is an echo of what Paul teaches that the church is, and what the ministry we all share is. The church is “the holy people of Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor 1:2) indeed his very body. In this body, “if one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.” (1 Cor 12:26) Ministry (which belongs not just to the pastor but all members of the body) is to “rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow,” and to “treat everyone with kindness.” (Rom 12:15) Nothing about buildings here! We still have every opportunity to exercise our mission and ministry as God’s people of Hope Lutheran because “we are the church together!
In this bleak midwinter, with its frosty wind and earth hard as iron, with the Covid variant of omicron spreading exponentially and all of us sheltering in place as best we can, I am grateful for the word of grace that the church is a people. We still have means of connecting with each other! Once again I celebrate the ways Hope members reach out, and once again I encourage us all to reach out, especially to those who are more isolated. And if you are isolated – to call a friend and congregation member, or the church office. We are so happy to be in touch!
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing,
so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,
through Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash