"The Incarnate Community"
by Rochelle Sikora
Everyone keeps saying that the world will never be the same after this pandemic clears up. I keep waiting for someone for tell me how, but I haven’t really heard many specific propositions yet. Education may look different. Retail may look different. Even church may look different. We can infer, I think, that activities that we once thought necessitated travel will now be done remotely. Why go to the grocery store when food can be delivered? Why go to a restaurant when you can enjoy the meal while sitting at home in your pajamas? Plus, you can avoid the annoying waiter who checks on you every 5 minutes. Or worse, the one who disappears after you have your food and never comes back, and all you want is to remind them that you ordered some extra sour cream on the side that they forgot. (Okay, maybe that’s just me.)
But what about church? Have you thought about how church might change? I know Amy and Alex are pondering that question.
We have all been enjoying worship from the comfort of the couch. I’ve heard of people tuning in to a variety of churches and appreciating different worship styles and preaching. There really is a smorgasbord of options for online content. Some of the best preachers and teachers in the world are available at our fingertips, with the click of a button. I even heard one speaker say that for the first time in human history, the supply of gospel content is greater than the demand. With all of these fantastic resources available online, some may decide that doing church at home is actually the better option.
These unique times provide an opportunity for us to re-evaluate just why it is we attend church. If we are just coming for the sermon, then digital church does seem to make sense as an alternative. However, I think most of us have to admit that there is so much more than happens on Sunday morning.
The church, by definition, is a gathering of Christ followers. You really cannot do “church at home.” The phrase itself is an oxymoron. That’s like saying you are doing a book club every time you curl up to read. A book club, by definition, involves a gathering with others. Sure, you can read a book anytime you want, just like you can listen to a sermon anytime you want. But, to be a part of the church is to gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ in person, in the flesh. As speaker and author Skye Jethani puts it, “Church is not equal to content.” He goes on to talk about how you can disincarnate content, but that you cannot disincarnate community.
When God chose to fully reveal himself and the measure of his love for creation, he showed up, in the flesh. That’s what love does. Sure, it gets messy when flawed people try to do life together. But, it is in the mess that the power of the gospel shines through. It is this kind of unique, Holy Spirit-inspired community that the church offers than cannot be replicated anywhere else, and certainly not through a screen.
How might the church look different in a post-Covid world? My guess is that we perhaps focus less on being a place for consuming content and more on cultivating community. Perhaps we break bread more often. Perhaps we gather to just to pray or sing praise to our God. Maybe the teaching takes a back seat to dialogue and conversation. I don’t know. But I do know that I want to be willing to change and adapt if need be. No matter what happens, I hope that we continue to model our lives after our Savior, the Incarnate Christ, who loved us enough to show up in the flesh. May we be the incarnate community that models God’s love with our presence together.
Prayer: Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one. Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit. Through your church, may the world believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen BCP pg. 252
This Week’s Challenge
- Think about how your faith has changed over the last few weeks. Has online worship, or physical distance affected it?
- Read 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
Also, Check Out:
- The Household of God by Leslie Newbigin
- Holy Post Podcast: "Virtual Church and Artificial Intelligence" with Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani (Check out minutes 11:18 through 21:37)
- "COVID-19 Could Push the Church Toward Change" by Jim Patterson