Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Persevering under trial. That sounds kind of familiar. It is what we are doing right now. And it is hard. We have been sheltering in place in California for 4.5 months. Some have been out and about to shop and go to doctor appointments, and even work. Others have been inside this whole time, at best getting outside to walk around the neighborhood. It is getting very old, even for introverts. But it is keeping us safe.
In the NRSV, the word temptation is in place of trial. That’s also pretty right on. Those who have stood up to the temptation to just get out, maybe even go to a restaurant - socially distanced and masked, of course - are less likely to be exposed to the virus.
My clergy friends who are still doing on-line worship are reporting that some of their members are really pushing hard to get back to in-person worship. They further report that most of those are older folks, the ones who really shouldn’t be going to in-person worship even when it begins. Those whose churches have opened say the same thing - the majority of the folks showing up really shouldn’t be out of the house at all.
To be fair, in many congregations the members tend to be older folks, many of whom do not have access to online services. How to reach those folks is a topic of continual conversations among clergy and their governing boards.
“How do we reach the people who do not come to us?” is the church’s most persistent and frustrating question. Whether we are talking about people who are not internet savvy in our current situation, or people who just didn’t want to come to church in the Before Times, how to reach those people is the subject of so many books, so many webinars, so many workshops and classes. Every one of those promotes a different solution, but so far I have not seen any that work better than personally inviting someone.
Last Sunday some people did just that. They invited one friend without internet access to come to online worship at their home. I spoke to one of those guests on the phone the other day and she said she liked it. This will not work for everyone, but it is a start. It could lead to house churches, gatherings of a few family members or very close friends doing worship together. Whatever will help us persevere through the trials and temptations we face in this pandemic will help us grow even closer to the God who loves us.
Holy God, you have given us so many opportunities to persevere in our dedication to your ways. May we take those opportunities and share them with others, so that everyone we can reach will know of your love for us. Amen.