Pastor’s Corner (3/4/2021)
Christian life is not sustained only by private acts of prayer, justice and virtue. It is sustained in community by gathering ritually around the Word of God and through the breaking of the bread. However, it is important to understand that this kind of gathering is not simply a social one capable of only doing what social gatherings can do. To gather around the Word of God and the breaking of the bread is a ritual gathering and ritual brings something that normal social gathering does not, namely, transformative power beyond what can be understood and explained through the physical, psychological and social dynamics that are present.
During Lent we spend a lot of time focusing on our personal spiritual lives. We focus a lot of attention on deepening our prayer life and nurturing our journey with God. In many ways, this may feel particularly appropriate during these days of quarantine and isolation. For many of us introverts there has been a silver lining as we are encouraged to spend time looking inward. For the extroverts among us, this has probably been a very challenging time as we spend more time alone. But, as more and more of us get the vaccine, many of us begin to ponder what life after COVID-19 will look like. Undoubtedly, it will not look exactly as it did before the pandemic, but many aspects of life will resume. One of the things altered the most for people of faith has been worship. We have had to let go of familiar patterns of worship which centered around gathering together in person. We have been pushed to embrace new ways of gathering for worship with the use of technology. These new tools have enabled us to reach out in new ways that make it possible to include more people in this aspect of our faith. However, the isolation may make it tempting to underplay the importance of worship in the Christian life.
I was so impressed by the way Ronald Roheiser described the centrality of worship in the Christian life. In the final chapter of his book The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality he discussed the topic “Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life.” Although we have had to re-imagine what life as a community looks like during this pandemic, we have worked hard to sustain this important aspect of our life. Through the written word and various types of technology we have worked hard to emphasize our life together as a faith community. Separation and isolation has been difficult for us all. Through our ability to live-stream we have been able to lift up the centrality of the Word and the Lord’s Supper, the very heart of our Reformed faith.
While many of us have missed gathering as a community, Rolheiser lifted up what makes gathering for worship so unique and special. Yes, we love the community aspect of gathering for worship. We love seeing one another and being together. But, as Rolheiser pointed out, worship is so much more, so much deeper. Sadly, the term “ritual” has become a “bad word” for many people today. However, as he pointed out, ritual brings the potential for transformation. Transformation is really the heart of this season. We participate in the transformation of Jesus which invites us to transformation as well.
As we move through this season of Lent, and this season of COVID, may we accept and embrace the promise of transformation. Through ritual and community we are invited to embrace the new life of resurrection.
In love and joy,