Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.”
Week by week since April we have been easing back into worship. For thirteen long months the church had been empty and the airwaves full. Across the country, worshipers known and unknown had dried their tears and given thanks after Karl had moved them with his voice and music. In living rooms, on decks, and in backyards, people put themselves in the path of the Gospel. They were comforted and sustained by words of grace and the nourishing meal of bread and juice. It was good, but through it all, something was missing; the human touch, the buzz of activity, the people of God singing, the cry of a baby, the labored walking of senior citizens, the laughter and smiles of beautifully flawed people.
Week by week we eased back into worship. It began with mandatory masks and social distancing, open windows, shorter services and hygiene theatre. Faces were hidden, the deviled eggs and cookies had not yet come out, and worship, as joyful as it was, was found to be lacking. Each Sunday the service became more familiar and the worshippers more comfortable back home at TLC. The puppets and stuffed animals disappeared from the pews, the masks were no longer necessary, the passing of the peace was energized, and laughter returned to our community.
The sheer joy of returning to worship finally reached its zenith on June 27th when the family was welcomed back to the Lord’s Table. The parade of formerly lonely pandemic pilgrims walked down the center aisle, they opened their hands to receive, and opened their hearts to be touched by grace. This rather simple but profound ritual, sometimes taken for granted, was indeed a Eucharistic gathering of thanksgiving. I have presided and served at Holy Communion for more than 35 years, but no Sunday compared to this past Sunday! We were all prodigals, we had all been lost, our journey to a pandemic wasteland had finally ended, and when we came home, Jesus invited us all to the meal.
If the time away has given us to a new appreciation for our shared life and the priceless value of community, then maybe our time in exile was not all bad. Maybe we needed to go without in order to clearly see what had always been there. I for one will never take for granted the honor of serving this meal again; with new eyes I will see your outstretched arms, your precious smiles, the parade of exceptional sinners and shaky saints who humbly hobble to the table, opening their hands like beggars to receive.
All that time, something was missing, and week by week it is all coming back. God is with us and always has been, but now we have the opportunity to journey side by side. Thanks be to God!
Blessed to be a Blessing