As we sit in the back pew and look around, we notice the dearth of people and wonder:
Has Jesus left the building?
COVID-19 has been foremost in many minds for over a year. We’ve all had our lives restricted, have had to follow orders in our personal lives from the government, have been desperately ill, have lost friends and family members. For many of us, the past year has been one of opportunities lost, of vacations untaken, of hopes deferred. We have been unable to see our families, go to our jobs, be with our friends, go to church. We have been stripped of so much. In such a short time, everything changed. Many people asked, where is Jesus in all of this?
Our viewpoint changed.
Sundays were just another day … one day ran into the next into the next into the next. For some, though, Sunday remained the holy day of the week—not Sun-day, but Son-day. We were fortunate to be able to listen to some of the greatest theologians and preachers in the world … virtually. Churches scrambled to get their services online, to retain their congregants, to keep their ministries alive, to provide via the internet what they were accustomed to providing in person.
And not unexpectedly, Jesus was here.
He was in the kindnesses a neighbor showed to another who couldn’t get out to shop; plus he was in the meals cooked for those who were ill and could not do for themselves; he was in the chores performed, the lawns mowed, the sidewalks shoveled, the joy people found in acts of simple service. Also, he was in the sacrifices of the first responders: the EMTs, the RNs, the MDs, the city workers, the trash collectors, the “little people”—the unnoticed who now assumed a position of importance long overlooked.
And Jesus is here now as he always has been.
He’s in the people who now can come back to their churches, he’s with the pastors who now are trying to regroup and reimagine what church is like, he’s with the technicians and A-V people who are making the virtual better than before. Also, he’s with the families who can now experience church as a family, warm and snuggled up before their TVs or computers. He’s with the ministries that have been able to expand and fill in the gaps the pandemic left. He’s cheering on those who have found so many more ways to demonstrate true fellowship.
Has Jesus left the building?
No, he’s merely expanded the church back to where it was in the beginning—to the community. We’ve found each other again. Boundaries have been broken, we’ve been forced to leave the building—we are the church. Churches may never again be what we were before the pandemic—services within a physical structure. We may be more—more welcoming, more dispersed, more effective.
We have learned to be what Christ intended his church to be
—what he was when he was here—
out with people sharing him with our words, our actions, our lives.
Perhaps if we stop trying to bring people in to the building to reach them, but instead train those who are there how to go out to others, we will be salt and light—his hands and feet. Let us embraces the changes forced on us by the pandemic and accompany Jesus as he leaves the building to expand his Church to those who have been left or who have stayed outside.
Just some thoughts from the back pew.
© June, 2021 Deb Haggerty