May I never again take the ability to gather with others in the same space to worship for granted.
I did in the past.
There were Sundays when leisurely breakfasts, long walks or sleeping in seemed better or more needed. There were baseball tournaments and swim practices. There were schedule conflicts. And it seemed easiest, so often, to pick those things over gathering with my church family, over sitting in an over-hot sanctuary, over rushing to get out the door. Church would be there next week, right? It would be there when I didn’t need to get groceries or when the sports season was done or when I had slept better the night before. I could sing next week. I could sip the mediocre coffee next week. I could gather next week.
There were Sundays that I resented the routine. Sundays I wanted what others had – the ability to choose. There were Sundays when people got on my nerves, when I didn’t want to let the worship team in early to practice, when I didn’t want to see the faces react to my sermons, when I didn’t want to deal with someone asking if I “had a few minutes after the service to talk.”
I took for granted the freedom to be in a building with others. I took for granted the hugs and the smiles. I took for granted the music leaders and the readers and the Sunday School teachers. I took for granted the idea that these things would always be there, when I wanted and needed them. I took for granted church chairs and powerpoint slides and sticky hands wet from communion juice. I took for granted the gift of sitting shoulder to shoulder with people trying to figure out faith together, Facebook friends live in person, holy saints singing off key beside me.
My faithful God, I am grateful that you have given us ways to still be together. Thank you for virtual worship. Thank you for Facebook live, YouTube and Zoom. Thank you for comment threads and recorded worship from people’s homes. Thank you that “where two or three are gathered” is still true, even if the gathering is around computer screens. Keep me grateful, God, until we can meet in person again.
And when “in person” is no longer impossible, help me to never take it for granted. It will be easy to do God. The routine will return, God, as hard as it is to see right now. And when Sundays come many good things will once again tug me away from the very good thing you have for me every week. Many days I will long to stay in bed or stay at home. Many weeks the gift will seem like a burden. When that happens, help me remember the longing I feel today. Help me to never again take this thing we call “going to church” for granted.
May my new normal include gratitude for what was available all along. May I receive it, with joy. Amen.