by Dave Carter
6th April 2021
Easter Sunday saw us meeting together in our building for worship for the first time this year. It felt like an occasion for celebration, a small but significant step forward.
Were we still distanced? Yes.
Did we still have to wear masks? Absolutely.
Could we sing? Not out loud, which is generally considered a blessing to those seated near me!
Yet the focus wasn’t on our limitations, but on the opportunity. We gathered to give God praise as His people. As family. As the body of Christ.
It reminded me of a couple of songs that celebrate being amongst friends.
The first one, obviously, is “Together Again”, from the legendary film “Muppets take Manhattan”. It’s one of the cinematic triumphs of our times, assuming that you love talking frogs.
The second is Psalm 122, where the first verse declares:
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
In this opening line, David captures the sense of expectation and encouragement that comes with being part of a community that seeks the presence of God. He is well known for being wholeheartedly sold out for intimacy with God, but there is an extra dimension to his praise in this verse. There is great pleasure in being among others who are of the same mindset, who are encouraging one another in worship. That sense of journeying together is wonderful. There is a shared determination to be in a place of encounter and to know the joy that comes with it.
It’s more than just saying “see you at church”. It can start with that simple phrase, but it builds into an amazing symphony of shared experience. “Let us worship together” is such an incredible invitation.
A few observations that occurred to me afterward:
- Being physically present shifts the spiritual atmosphere. There is something about being in the same room that changes the experience, that allows us to benefit from the goodness of God that follows every believer. Before any songs started, before the sermon was preached, the room was already alive due to the faith of those gathered there. I celebrate all that we’ve done online over the last year. Some of it offers opportunities that we need to keep pressing into, above and beyond our physical meetings. Yet with that, we must also not lose sight of the power of being near one another.
- Community occurs outside of the meeting. The times when relationships are built and trust grows are the casual moments we don’t organise. It’s in the socially distanced groups of 6 outside with a takeaway coffee after the meeting has ended. It’s in the bumping into people in the car park and stopping to ask them how they’re doing. Coming to a meeting is wonderful, as I’ve highlighted above. But without the smaller interactions, we don’t build a family. The reason we rejoice at worshipping together is because we’re in relationship. We spur one another on to engage with God.
- “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” has never been a more necessary encouragement than after 5 months of hairdressers being closed…