I remember a while back I was putting a good shirt on just before we began streaming Sunday church on-line at my son’s house in Wausau, Wisconsin. I told my wife I was getting dressed up for church and asked in jest if I should also put a tie on. Rebecca, my daughter-in-law, spoke up and said, “You’re not at church, you are watching church.” It was said in a light-hearted way, and we all got a chuckle out of it, but it stuck with me and I decided to save this story as a starter for a news-letter article. Suffice it to say, watching church on TV is not the same as being in church; and it is not a permanent substitute.
As I look around today I still see many churches that are not meeting in person. In fact, I see some churches trying to continue to push everything (not just worship services but Bible studies and meetings) on-line so that no-one has to leave the house. Yet, given our increasing vaccination rate for Covid-19 it’s hard to believe that we should still be discouraging all in-person attendance. After all, at Mount Calvary we have exercised prudent measures and are diligent in the wearing of masks and social distancing.
In the days of the early church, the Christians did not stop gathering together for worship even though they were considered an illegal cult and under the threat of persecution by the Roman government.” They still assumed risk in order to gather. Is that any different than assuming risk to gather during Covid-19? I’m not advocating being reckless but realizing that our lives are in God’s hands; and He calls us to faith in His divine providence and protection. .Paul tells the Romans clearly that self-preservation—which is me centered–is not the primary criteria for living their lives when He says, 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. –Romans 14:8
Our Lord tells us that we are part of the body of Christ. In Hebrews 10:25 we are actually encouraged to assemble physically as part of that body. “25 …not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Streaming church events and the use of Zoom may be convenient but it carries the great risk of ignoring our Lord’s words about worship and of eventually dismantling the assembly of the Saints as we know it today. We might say we are playing church when we do so because there is still something missing. If streaming becomes our default position, that will be a sad day for the church of Christ. However, even in the days of Covid-19 pastor’s still have an obligation to preach law and Gospel about all types of sin, and that includes sins against the 3rd Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Luther says it well in the meaning to the commandment; “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
My encouragement to our members and all Christians is to continue to reflect on whether or not we should stay away from worship on any given day. This article is not intended to take the decision away from anyone for their personal safety and welfare, and the intent is not to judge. Yes, if we are sick, it is a good idea to stay away. If we have a compromised immune system then that too would make it advisable to stay away also. However, if we just don’t feel like getting out of our pajamas or leaving the house then it might be time to take stock of our real motivation for streaming or watching services, Bible study & meetings on Facebook. Is it perhaps time to begin rebuilding our churches? The house of the Lord is where God chooses to feed us with His Word and Sacraments. It’s where His people are called to worship Him. He calls us to come in faith, trusting Him for His divine protection, and to be rebuilt in faith. King David says that He looked forward to joining the physical assembly and going into the house of the Lord when he said: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” -Psalm 122:1