I just need to say, first of all, how much I miss you. Gathering here for worship each week is something, quite honestly, I’ve taken for granted. Every week some of you are here. The next week it can be whole different bunch. But it’s us, together. I didn’t realize how important that is.
I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out how to increase those Sunday morning worship numbers. Rather than rejoicing with those of you who are here, celebrating God’s presence among us, I would at times focus more on the numbers. How can we raise them? How can we get more people to show up? How can we reach new people and include them?
But not today. Today I just wish any of you could gather here. Today I’m imagining the celebration we’ll have the first Sunday we can sit together. Today, I want to pray and sing with you in person. Today I long to share the Lord’s Supper with you and look you in the eye as the bread and wine are shared. Today, I’m realizing my priorities haven’t been great when it comes to worshiping together with this community I love.
Instead of asking “how can we increase worship attendance?” I should simply have been rejoicing that we actually could worship and gather together in the presence of God. I should have quit asking “how?” and started rejoicing that Jesus showed up with whoever was here.
All that makes me read this gospel text differently. Jesus healed a man born blind. No one had ever even heard of that being done before. It was an absolutely astonishing feat, totally and completely marvelous.
But instead of celebrating and rejoicing that Jesus showed up, both the man’s neighbors and the Church leaders kept asking, “How? How did this happen? How did this Jesus character make you see? Are you sure he did it? Are you sure you were actually blind? Are you really the same person who used to beg?”
Jesus has done an amazing thing here. Right in their midst. They are in the presence of God, yet instead of rejoicing that God’s grace and mercy have been revealed, they are only interested in asking “how?”
Our world is different right now. Our lives are turned upside down these days. It’s easy to become despondent or angry. I know I find myself irritable and grumpy. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Why can’t things get back to normal? How much longer will this virus keep us penned in our homes like zoo animals?
Which, again, makes me read this gospel text differently. Jesus is doing amazing things all around us. Have you seen how people all over the place are reaching out by phone or email or online connections? We’ve opened a Zoom account, which is an online videoconferencing program. They’re indicating that requests for accounts with them have skyrocketed. Watch your email for Zoom meetings and gatherings, because that’s how we’ll be connecting for the time being. Have you seen how creative people are becoming in establishing some kind of community?
I saw a guy in Italy standing on his balcony in the middle of a huge apartment complex singing opera to his neighbors.
I saw another person leading an exercise class on his roof so his neighbors could join in.
Some food delivery services have quit charging the restaurants they deliver from so the restaurants have a chance of making payroll.
One of our music copyright suppliers, who permits us to print songs in bulletins and on the screens, has given us one month of free permission to play and sing their songs online—which is how we’re able to sing together.
Celebrities reading stories to kids online.
Those with the means to do so are donating large sums of money to help food banks and food pantries around the country.
Jesus is doing miraculous things right here, right now.
Even though Jesus is moving people in new ways of compassion and care, there will be people who will only ask the “how?” questions. “How much toilet paper can I horde?” “How can I clean out the grocery store even if that means some homebound people get nothing?” And in focusing on the “how,” they’re missing the miracles, the new things that Jesus is doing right here in our very midst.
Yes, I’m reading this gospel text differently. And I’m celebrating that even though we are not gathered in the same room at the same time, Jesus still shows up with us. Whether we’re together in person or in virtual space, we are still in the presence of God together. We are not alone. Jesus still shows up. In that, we can rejoice together.