A member of our Vine Street CC congregation sent me a Facebook post from someone who had posted a message form the Deon Johnson, the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in Missouri. I have re-created the post below. 

All too often in our secularized “American Dream” individualistic self-centered culture, church is seen as one social option among many that the multitudes can choose from in order to fill in their day-to-day lives and hope to bring some meaning to what is often a life of quiet desperation. Let’s see, this week there’s shopping at Wal-Mart, getting the hair done, fixing the car’s air conditioning, planting the petunias, making the special secret recipe lasagna on Thursday, playing cards with the gang, watching the big game on Saturday … and then, oh yeah, we’ve got church on Sunday morning! 

Now that’s a full life! As long as we’re busy, busy, busy … then we’re really living. 

And so, when a nasty invisible virus comes along and takes away this “normal” way of life, we begin to lose our bearings … and we start to wonder, what is life without my to do list? And eventually, we find ourselves more alone at home than we’ve ever been, and we’re just not used to spending so much “quality time” with ourselves. Truth is, we’re not always that easy to live with by ourselves! 

In this kind of lifestyle, the things we do are seen as essential … and when they are taken away we get lost and get antsy, and start to demand that our things to do be given back to us, despite the risk to others. 

Of course, there is another way of life that is offered to us by the church, ironically. Rather than the “full” life of the secular culture, this is called the “abundant” life … and it’s a life of faith and devotion to God each and every day. In this life, going to church is not as important as being the church. In an abundant life, as prescribed by Jesus in the gospels, doing is not as important as being. Instead of having a to-do list to remind you of how full your life is, in an abundant life you have become the living incarnation of the person God has created you to be. The culture no longer gets to define who you are … God does that.

In this type of life of faith, the things that are really essential are shown to us by the Holy Spirit and through the life of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is, Jesus never said that the path to the abundant life includes a once a week for one hour every Sunday morning worship service. That’s something the culture came up with. 

Now, I have to admit, I don’t know if anyone likes a good Sunday morning worship service better than me – but I bet a lot of us are tied for that. Still, my life with Christ and in God is what’s essential, not an hour a week on Sunday to worship God and praise my Lord Jesus. Actually, I try to do that every day with the things that I think are really essential. They’re the things Jesus taught me. The things He told me to build my life around. These are the things that I committed to after I emptied out all the things the culture told me I was supposed to be doing. 

I miss everyone on Sunday morning so much! I miss our time to be with each other, and to worship together. And yes, I would say that worship is essential to me life. But as much as I miss the Sunday morning hour, I know that we can worship Jesus every minute of every day. No matter where we are. Alone or together. And I know that’s what “church” really is – being the incarnation of Jesus in the midst of a pandemic American culture that’s deeply in need of meaning and purpose. 

May I suggest the essential work of the Church, as described below by Bishop-elect Johnson?   

From the Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Missouri,                                   Deon K. Johnson:

“The work of the church is essential.

The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential.

The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential.

The work of being a loving, liberating, and life-giving presence in the world is essential.

The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee, and the undocumented is essential.

The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential.

The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed.”

We, who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbors and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe.

We are the church.

Now let’s go out and be the church today … and soon enough we will gather again in that sacred House of God on the corner of Vine and Park and we will pray, and we will sing, and we will laugh and maybe even cry, but until then – let’s “be” the church until we can again “go” to church.

Stay well and be strong,

Pastor Bob