I hope you have heard, we are returning to in-person worship! I’m excited about the return to in-person worship, and I hope you are too! For the time being, we will return with the 8:30 service only. It is going to feel and look a little different, but don’t let that scare you. This is a great opportunity to refresh and reboot our worship. I have thought much about Genesis 22 as we have been preparing to return to in-person worship.
Genesis 22 is the story of God’s “test” of Abraham. You may remember the story, but in case you don’t, let me refresh your memory. Abraham and Sarah had been promised by God that in their “old age” they would have a son who would be the start of a great nation. As is always the case, God was good to keep God’s promise. Isaac was born and grew to be a young child. In Genesis 22 we are not told how old Isaac is, but he is old enough to carry the wood for the burnt offering. As the story begins, God calls to Abraham and he responds, “Here I am.” Abraham is open and available for God to use. God gives the incredible news that the promised son Isaac would be the burnt offering on a mountain in the land of Moriah. We are not told how Abraham responds to this news other than getting things ready and leaving for Moriah the next morning. I don’t expect he got much sleep that night. The next morning off they go! As they approach the mountain, Abraham says to the men that came with him and Isaac, “stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then WE will come back to you.” Abraham continues to be faithful to God’s call all the way to even raising the knife to offer his son as a sacrifice, but God again intervenes. God provides a “ram caught in a thicket by its horns.” Abraham offers the ram as the sacrifice, and he and the boy Isaac worship and return to the men waiting with the donkey. Abraham called the place “The Lord will provide” Jehovah Jireh.
So you may ask, “What does this story have to do with us returning to in-person worship?” I’m glad you asked! Abraham had worshiped God for years before Isaac was born. From the record we have in scripture, there is never a human sacrifice involved in this worship. This was completely different from what Abraham had ever experienced. However, he trusted God and knew God would provide. As we find ourselves in unprecedented times in our country and in the life of the church, we must trust God to provide. Worship will be different, that’s for sure. With face coverings, no singing and physical distancing, it would be easy to think that God could not “move” in such an environment. But our God is the God that provides. If we come with an open heart and make ourselves available to God, God can and will “show up” in a big way. We may not want to worship with physical distancing, face covers, and no congregational singing, but God will still be present in our worship. Jesus reminds us in John’s gospel that “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”.
Friends, no matter what form our worship may take in these early days of in-person worship, we can worship in spirit and truth. God will provide! Thanks be to God!
Grace and peace,