In the story of the Ascension of Jesus, there is – at the beginning of the story of the Church – a final commission: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
I began my first retirement in 2011. I failed at it. Yet I knew even then there was more in me to do for God. More witness, more words, more love and more to say about God and a relationship with Christ. I decided on the name and concept of A Virtual Church. After I secured the domain name, I wrote about what a Virtual Church would be. This is what is I wrote on my website:
“If the Church is the Body of Christ for the world, then a Virtual Church is that body without bounds. A Virtual Church is a place of speaking hope, praying for healing, offering communion with others, reflecting on God’s Word in Scripture, and engaging in thoughtful reflection on the world. A Virtual Church is a voice for offering peace to anyone on the planet who needs word of encouragement and life.”
Who knew that the Great Pandemic of 2020 would make most all the church virtual? Who even now knows the opportunity of that to reach the far ends of the earth with the Good News of Christ who often tells us – Be not afraid, and offers us an invitation to follow in ways that bring peace and rest. The opportunity for witness in the world has never been greater, both in the work that is done online, and in the boots on the ground ways of serving our communities. Ours is not an ordinary time.
What we offer online is for a world bigger than our own congregations. As I have scrolled through all the worship offerings from churches around the world, I see a world soaked in the Good News. The biggest challenge is that our culture is so slick with media graphics, music, gloss and mirrors, the simple story of Jesus may get lost among the competing voices and stories. What is shared online needs to be creative, compelling and relevant. Our shared word needs to serious, and honest, plain, hopeful, life saving truth. I am not a great believer in the theatrics of worship, yet certain amounts of those production values can show tender care of the Word we share. Herein lies the conundrum of the Virtual Church.
I think of the Abbas and Ammas and their voices from the desert place that still impact the faith. I think of Julien in the anchorage writing words for the ages. In the end, glitz and gloss do not a faith make. The word goes out into a field ripe for harvest, a life giving word. Yet the wheat wants a hook and a show. When the word falls like gentle rain on the parched field, the harvest comes alive.
For me in my little Virtual Church, I pray to offer healing words and words of hope. For ears and hearts who seek wholeness and peace, God will find you beyond the clamor and noise. Do not be afraid still is the call of Jesus in the world. I pray that all the church will live into the opportunity that is ours today and the world will live the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.