Closed because of Corona.
Covid–19 shut our doors, say the Pastors of our land.
Governors of all 50 states ordered that there be no gatherings of the believers, the worshipers. Stay home, said the Governors, and get the religious things you need from the digital world. You never know, said the Governors, whether or not the person sitting in the pew next to you has the virus, no matter the symptoms. You just never know.
Closure was probably the right thing to do, at least from a medical standpoint. Perhaps the virus was a clear and present danger and at least to some extent, it still is. But it was fairly UNCONSTITUTIONAL, violated the First Amendment and at least temporarily took away the very first and perhaps the most important freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution:
FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
That is, 50 men and women, Governors all, violated the First Amendment by:
PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION.
It was not the United States Congress which did that, but the individual states. No matter, the states violated the Constitution, undoubtedly set a precedent and we the people got a taste of what America would be like without the ability to worship in mass gatherings, in churches, synagogues and mosques if and when that satanic time comes.
Scriptures tell us that where as few as two or three are gathered together, the Lord is there and among them. I, said Jesus of Nazareth, am there. So that a HOUSE OF WORSHIP may not be necessary for true spirituality but it has always been and should be THE PLACE for worship as a matter of choice. And:
THE PLACE SHOULD NOT BE REPLACED
by the individual and potentially arbitrary action of any Governor, much less a Congress, Senate and House.
So, we the people turn to the digital world for our worship. The church goes online. And it does so without the congregation. No people, live human beings interacting, nothing personal or one on one. All of that may be helpful but IT IS NOT THE SAME, not close. There may be coming a so called NEW NORMAL, whatever that may be. But there should not be any new normal for THE CHURCH, not the church. The old model is critical and must be preserved, IT MUST.
There was 2000 years ago one man, the Nazarene, a miracle worker and the world’s greatest teacher. He preached, and they came, one by one. And then there were 12. He called them disciples and they gave their all and themselves to Him, gladly, willingly, lovingly. And the fellowship began. They were together as believers. They have loving commonality. They had a very special spiritual communion. They became, those 12, one in HIM. They were the founders, the pioneers of fellowship and togetherness. And the gatherings grew, the multitudes came. Believers were added and the Gospel began to spread, beyond Jerusalem, nation after nation, and then the world. The church of Jesus Christ became a living, vibrant REALITY possessed of real people.
The early church was conducted in homes. People gathered at the homes of other believers to worship. Even then, without churches or formal buildings in which to worship, believers hungered for fellowship, for association, for the AMBIANCE of worship. More than one, and more than two or three. All were welcome, invited even and a sense of communion and commonality was critical, indispensable and in today’s terminology:
ESSENTIAL to that early form of worship was the sense of:
The touch of the brothers and the sisters in Christ was the supreme act of human love. That perhaps was the beginning of the holy hug. The Christian love among believers expressed itself with that special touch. It was undoubtedly fostered and approved by the HOLY SPIRIT working, ever working in the hearts of believers. The love they had for Jesus of Nazareth grew to the point where it had to be expressed and shared with others. In person, touch, feel was assumed to be essential and those on the front line of Christianity, as it spread among so many dangers and difficulties were the very first lovers in the church, set precedent and became the examples for all believers to follow.
The men and women of that day sought to touch Jesus, whenever they could. His feet were washed with an expensive oil by an adoring woman. Zacchaeus could not touch him but climbed the tree to see him. The sick and the frail wanted only to touch the hem of his garment so as to be healed. One can only imagine how often and lovingly the 12 disciples touched their Lord. And, even today, we who believe long for:
THE TOUCH OF THE MASTER’S HAND.
Nothing can ever replace the personal, the interpersonal, the gatherings, the togetherness, NOTHING. We need the touch of the master’s hand. We need to taste and see that the Lord is good. We need the scent, the ambiance of the church and worship. We need to see the church in action, its people, its believers working to spread the fruits of the Gospel. And we need to hear in person from the actual believers, Pastors and Christian leaders the Gospel lovingly poured forth. Those experiences are critical, constitutional and cannot be replicated online. The church of Jesus Christ is alive, organic, a growing organism and it must always remain as such. Virtual, the digital world can only be for those who cannot be part of the living church.
All that a Pastor is, the leader of the people, cannot be experienced online. The person of the Pastor, the touch of the Pastor, the handshake or hug can be every bit as important as the message itself.
Communion, the partaking of the flesh and blood of our Lord with bread and wine can be accomplished anywhere. But there is nothing like sharing that communion with other believers and receiving pastoral blessing with that very special bread and wine. Nothing online, nothing virtual can replicate that.
And, baptism the same. One can be baptized virtually anywhere by anyone. But there is special spirituality when done in a church environment and with the participation and fellowship of other believers. Nothing online can compensate for that.
And the choir. Music comes from a multitude of sources but only in church can one both hear and see real people making real music. Online is a partial experience but never the whole.
And the same with prayer, and prayer meetings. To hear, see, feel prayer from others, prayer with different thoughts, spiritual needs, words, expressions and feelings can never, ever be replicated online. The digital world should be for those only who cannot participate in the real world, the real life of the real church in all of its facets.
And the spontaneity of interaction. So much happens with the gathering and fellowship of the believers that can only be experienced in person, never online. Some of the most meaningful moments are OFF–CAMERA. The spontaneity of touch. The unexpected can be very special spiritual blessings. One hears in person the total sounds of the church at work and its people – believers involved. The total sound. The total message not captured online. Those sounds spontaneous and unexpected can be far more spiritually lasting than a formal message from the pulpit itself.
And marriage. Today, two can be married anywhere by virtually anyone. But there is nothing like what the spirituality of the church can offer. Marriage can participate in the ambiance of the sacred, the holy. If marriage consists of holy vows between two people, then the church is the proper, really the only venue for such. When a lover engaged becomes a spouse, nothing can replace sharing and reciting those vows before a minister of the Lord. Nothing.
And the same for revivals. Nothing can replace the feel, the touch, the dynamic in person energy of the revival itself. Nothing.
The Gospel now goes to the ends of the earth online. A good thing indeed for there are those multitudes who have no other way to see and hear. But nothing can replace a missionary, a man or woman CALLED by the Holy Spirit to GO YE into all the world and preach this Gospel. That messenger can be every bit as important as the message itself, if not more so. BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM.
The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The highest power comes from people energized, led and inspired by the Holy Spirit. They become people, messengers, ambassadors of:
There is a powerful presence about their personality, their person. They are living examples of the power of the Gospel within them. They become ambassadors of TOUCH, even to some extent like Jesus of Nazareth of Old. What he was is in them and they become like him with others. The spiritual touch of that person can be as or more powerful than the message itself.
The digital world indeed has value. Things virtual are better than nothing. So much can be shared and all can be good. But, there is nothing like in person, nothing like the gathering of believers, of personal fellowship, of commonality and communion, nothing. That is the stuff, the heart and soul of the real church and no one, no President, no Congress, no Governor should ever shut it down. None should ever shut the doors of the church, perhaps no matter the circumstances. Perhaps. And, nothing online can ever replace anything in person, no matter the value. Nothing but nothing can ever replace:
Touch is essential to worship, to interpersonal relationships. One can see and hear in the digital world, online and that is of value. But, nothing, NOTHING can ever replace the real church with real people. NOT EVEN THE CORONAVIRUS!