The Psalmist asks, “How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
I know I’ve talked with you about this before, but that question keeps going through my mind. How do we “Do church” in a midst of a crisis that none of us have lived through before.
There’s disagreement over how to deal with this health and economic crisis. For those who say our governor and health scientists are alarmists over COVID because “people have always died due to flu”, I would ask them to do a simple Google search to back up their statement. 21,000 Americans died of the flu in 2018, but 89,000 Americans (and counting) have died from virus in less than 6 months. This is an easily transmittable virus with no cure or vaccine, even though the majority of people who are diagnosed eventually recover or have no critical symptoms.
Personally, I can’t wait “until this is over” and things can “get back to normal”. That’s a consensus, isn’t it? Everybody a) wishes this never happened, b) can’t wait to get through this, and c) want’s to “get back to normal”. Everybody!
Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen like that. It’s like saying we want things to return to the “Clevers” or “Mayberry RFD”. It was a great moment in time and history, but history moves on and we find our selves in more of an afternoon soap opera than sitting by Opie’s fishing hole.
The same is true for the church. I’d like to set the clock back. I’d like to get back to when church was important and it was a part of the fabric of daily life. I’d like to get back to at least a bit more formality, rather than gym shorts and football jerseys (Packer jerseys are, of course, acceptable formal attire). I’m not looking for ties and sportcoats, but perhaps a bit more formality wouldn’t be all bad. But those things won’t happen again.
The question for people of faith is this: “How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
Adaptation, whether we like it or not, is the reality of life and the reality of the Church if we are to remain relevant. So here we are in a strange land, with differing ideas of how to move around one another, shop, have people in our homes, attend funerals, and meet in public. We are also in a strange land of uncertainty of how communicable COVID is when we meet for worship. We want to “sing the Lord’s song”, but we’re in a land/moment in time we’ve never been in before.
Help me if I’m wrong, but I believe the key to that adaptation won’t be on rules we follow or rules we set for ourselves. The health guidelines and rules we have are important, but there’s the spiritual aspect that is as important. “Doing church” will succeed only if the people of faith have a deep hunger to continue to worship and sing your songs (praise and ministry) in times we don’t understand. The entire future of this congregation will rest in the hearts of our members and community who continue to have a thirst…an endless, aching thirst…to come into your presence and worship, even in unfamiliar terrain and uncertain moments.
But there’s a second part to that. Are we willing to humbly adapt our opinions in order to care for others by wearing masks or thinking of those who may be much less unsure of themselves than we are. I may not think a mask is “necessary”, but perhaps there are others who won’t come to church because they’re afraid. Am I willing to suspend my opinion in order to help them feel secure?
“How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”…I’m not exactly sure yet. But what I am sure of is that we will only find an answer when the people of faith humbly commit ourselves to that purpose and put the welfare of others ahead of our own opinion
As always, thanks for listening. I love you. Now, where did I put that mask…? Dan