It is often when you don’t have something for a while you notice how important it has always been to you. We have not worship together for almost 6 months. Yes, I offered online Morning Prayer services. But that, in my mind is not worship. I am not saying I shouldn’t have done it, nor that you should not have watched them. It’s all we could do and for the technology to do so I am grateful. Still, worshipping the Triune God in Christ is meant to be a ‘concrete’ not a ‘virtual’ experience that can only happen when we physically meet to worship. Why?
Why did Jesus, the Son of God, become a concrete, physical human being? So, we can turn to something that is concrete and physical through which we can experience, know, healed, transformed by Him. What is it that we can now turn to that is concrete and physical so this can happne? The Body of Christ, you, me, and others when we physically gather together to worship our Lord and receive His Body and Blood, again through concrete and physical things, the bread, and the wine. Jesus became a real, concrete, and physical person, so He can be real to us. The way He does this in the Spirit is through the Church, the Body Christ and its sacraments. By ‘real’, of course I do not mean Jesus’ physical presence. Nevertheless, I do mean a ‘real’ presence in a mystical and spiritual sense. But why is it so important that we be together physically as the Body of Christ to experience Christ’s presence?
The one thing I missed the most when we were shut down was being physically connected with you. Yes, I’m sure my virtual services gave you a sense of connection with one another. Still, it doesn’t replace being able to physically see, touch and hear other Christians. There was, at least for me, always a sense of ‘aloneness’ when we were shut down. The point of meeting together on Sunday mornings is so we do not feeling alone, not just from each other, but also from God’s presence. It is through the Body of Christ as it gathers to worship its Lord and receive Him in Word and Sacrament, that one feels and knows Christ’s presence and thus, that we are not alone. Jesus became concrete so we can have something concrete, the Body of Christ, through which we can know we’re not alone.
None of this can be experienced virtually because ultimately, it is something we do alone, not with others. But Mike, what about shut-ins and the sick? Yes, they cannot come to Church, but that is why the Church, the Body of Christ, you, and me, can, and must, go to them! That is why it is important for me as your priest to visit and bring the sacrament to the sick and shut in. Furthermore, it is also important that you, if you are able, to visit the sick and shut-ins of our parish, as I know some of you do. Why? Because you, with me, are part of the Body of Christ through which others may experience the real presence of Christ.
Some of my fellow clergy have referred to virtual services as a ‘new way to do Church’. Wrong! Saying such a thing is an utter denial of the Incarnation. Jesus became human, died on a cross, was risen from the dead, and ascended to His Father NOT to become real to you virtually. He did all this so he can become – what you really need – concretely real to you, which can only happen through the concrete gathering of His Body, the Church and its sacraments. Therefore, there are no short cuts to knowing and experiencing Christ. The comfort of your living room while drinking hot cup of coffee or tea will not do. If you want to know and experience Christ in concrete ways, the only way is when the Body of Christ meets together, worships together, hears God’s word together, and receives the body and blood of Christ in the bread and the wine together. Then, and only then, can Jesus be a living reality for us. That we can now meet physically together at St. John’s, thanks be to God!