Congregation Joins in Worship! (10/18/20)

Posted by on Oct 19, 2020 in EventReport, FEATURED, Worship & Prayer | 0 comments

Pastor Jim preached a powerful sermon about God’s involvement in Noah’s life.  As Noah built a boat in the middle of a desert, endured ridicule, hard work, and doubt- God was there.  As he persevered month upon month on on a cramped boat, filled with animals who needed constant care- God was there.  As he longed for the end of the trip when he could set his feet on dry land again-  God was there. 

Sound familiar?!?

And on this Sunday, for the first time since March 8, a congregation was in the pews to hear the service.  Our church continues to worship via Live Stream, but this Sunday marked the first time we used our Covid Safety Policy and included an in-person congregation. 

Even during this pandemic, building shut-down, and Live Stream Only worship- God is here!

 

We are Yet There…

Since March, our praise team, tech team, and pastor have faithfully met in the sanctuary to “produce” a worship service every Sunday.  The pews were empty, but our church was there.  We were there in technology as we used our laptops and tablets to worship.  Our pews may have been in our backyards or living rooms instead of in our church building, but we were there.

On this Sunday, the sanctuary’s pews weren’t empty.  Attendance was sparse; only 25 worshipers were permitted and 21 attended.    Before anyone could enter the narthex they had to sign a couple of forms affirming that they weren’t sick and that they wouldn’t hold the church liable.  Insurance and legal requirements.  Everyone had to wear a mask.   But the echo was lower and the warmth was higher.  On this day, we were able to gather together and worship. 

The congregation stood during the opening hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  But because the virus spreads by airborne droplets, singing was not permitted.  The congregation stood silently, stifeling the urge to sing and to express joy and adoration.

After the first hymn, Pastor Jim said some familiar words:  “You May be Seated!”

This statement is part of every service.  At the end of each hymn, as singing transitions into prayer, the pastor says “You may be seated.”

But in these days of Covid and social distancing, we haven’t heart that phrase in many months.  It may have been at home from a live stream distance, and we may not have been able to stand and sing with our church, but nothing can stop us from singing in our hearts.  But on this day, we stood with our brothers and sisters as we worshiped together.

 

A Different Arrival

Normally, we park our cars in our favorite spot, enter the big narthex doors, shake hands, hug and welcome eachother.  But now, things are much different.  We’re told where to park, and when we enter the side narthex door we’re immediately confronted with a podium, a disposable pen, and a couple of forms to fill out.  There’s no congregating or hugging in this age of “social distancing.”  With masks in place, forms completed, the ushers direct us to a pew.  Maybe not our favorite pew, but at least we were in the sanctuary.

 

A Different Worship

In our assigned pew, one of the first things we realize is that there are no hymnals, bulletins, or other printed material.  We stand during the hymns, but we don’t sing.  The ushers don’t pass the offering plates.  Instead, we deposited our offering in the plate that’s in the center aisle when we arrived.

And yet, were’ not alone.  We can join in the music by tapping our feet or singing in our heads.  We can look around and see part of our church family.  We can close our eyes and join in prayer.  We can watch Pastor Jim as he encourages and challenges us with the scripture and his message.  We can even snicker at his bad jokes from behind our masks.

 

A Different Exit

Normally, we like to linger around in the sanctuary after the postlude. We like to catch up with friends, meet visitors, or console someone we’ve been praying for.  But now, all we can do is leave.  Starting with the “good seats in the back of the Sanctuary,” the ushers direct us out of the sanctuary.  As we pass through the narthex, there are smiling faces, but there is no coffee, no donuts, no conversation.  We are instructed to immediately leave the building, enter our cars, and drive home.

Normally, we leave church with our minds set on the things we’ll do during the rest of the day.  Lunch, Eagles game, dinner.  But on the way home now, we’re reminded that we we’re never alone, even while watching the service on Live Stream.  We’re thankful for the opportunities we do have.  We look forward to a return to “normalcy”; a time when we don’t have to wear masks, when we can sing, and when the sanctuary is full.  But regardless of how many people are in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, we’re still a church family that prays for eachother, learns from eachother, and grows together.

 

 

Are We There Yet?

Life has become very different these past months.  This pandemic and all of its difficulties, along with the death and grieving that it has caused, is a journey.  In his sermon, Pastor Jim connected our journey during these times to Noah’s journey so many years ago.  Like Noah or a kid on a long car ride, we yearn for the answer to our question: “Are We There Yet?” 

The sermon was entitled “Are We There Yet?”, and the scripture reading was the story of Noah, found in Genesis 8:1-17.  

Remember…

Imagine building a big boat in the middle of a desert where there’s no rain? No dock, no marina, no fishing…. no need for any sane person to be building a big boat.  And yet, that’s what God told Noah to do.  Imagine Noah’s “Say what?!?” doubt and the good times his “friends” and neighbors had poking fun at Noah.  And what did his family think???

Times were difficult, but Noah was faithful.  And, God Remembered Noah… 

Genesis 8:1 says that “God remembered Noah…”  The Hebrew word for “remember” goes far deeper than just bringing a past experience to mind.  It’s not like God suddenly said “Oh, yeah- Noah.  I almost forgot about him floating on the water in that smelly boat.  I guess I ought to drop in on him and straighten things out.”   When the Bible said that “God remembered Noah, ” it was saying that Noah was always on God’s mind.  God was constantly looking for ways to act on Noah’s behalf.

Pastor Jim pointed out three ways that God “remembered” Noah…

1:  God is Actively Involved

How did Noah ever get the wood to build the ark?  How did he get the faith to stick with the construction project and put up with the ridicule?  And, once the ark was finished, how did Noah ever convince the animals to board the ark???

There were a lot of details in all that Noah had to do.  And it was God who was in the details.  God “remembered” Noah constantly by making things work out.  Noah had to have a lot of faith and to trust God.  He had to put in some hard work.  But it wasn’t his wood.  It wasn’t his persuasion that brought the animals on board.  It wasn’t his power that made the rain start, or made it stop.  Just as we pray “Thy will be done,” God is constantly working to complete His will.

 

2: God Gives Hope in the Future

You don’t have to look very far to see the hope that God is providing for the future.  You can see His presence in the details.  You can see new life, beautiful skies, butterflies, the ocean, and love.  The scriptures promise that God is actively working in our lives for a “future with hope”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

– Jeremiah 29:11

And like Noah, or like the Old Testament psalmist , we can trust in that hope…

Give me a sign of your goodness,that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

– Psalm 86:17

3: God Gives Words of Comfort

The big boat that Noah was floating on didn’t have a rudder.  He couldn’t control where it was going; all he could do is trust.  As time went on, one day Noah sent out a dove to see if it could bring back any sign of dry land.

The dove didn’t find any sign of hope, but the text says that Noah “reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.”  In the same way, God reaches out to us to pull us back to Himself.  He says, “Come- I’ll hold you.  It will work out.” A shepherd knows each of his sheep and cares for them.  If one is injured he’ll pick it up, stroke it, tell it that things will be ok.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and He stands ready to “pull us back on to the ark” and comfort us through our difficulties.

 

God is Yet Here

Like Noah, we are also on a journey.  We didn’t start the “rain”, and we don’t know when it will end.  We don’t know how it will turn out or where we’re headed.  Like Noah, we don’t have a physical rudder, but we have something better;  just as God guided Noah to the journey’s conclusion, God is guiding us now. 

We celebrated Palm Sunday, Easter, and Mother’s Day with creative videos. We had a virtual Vacation Bible School.  We’ve having a drive through Trunk or Treat.  Throughout the pandemic our ministry teams and Small Groups have met using Zoom.  Our children’s Sunday School meets on Facebook every Sunday morning.  A “Soap ‘n Such” pantry has been set up on our porch.  A Prayer Phone hotline communicates hope and encouragement every day.  For months, we’ve continued to worship our God using our Live Stream (which was put into place years before this pandemic hit us). 

In a sense, Jesus is the ark.  He has brought us safely into this journey with Him He continues to act in our details, to give us hope, to comfort us when we’re down.  He continues to inspire us and empower us, even when we can’t see the road that lies ahead of us.

Are we there yet???

The day will come when things will return to “normal.”  Instead of a masked socially-distanced gathering of 25 people, the day will come when the Sanctuary will once again be filled with people; smiling, hugging, and even singing.  And yet, we’re on a journey that God is leading.  The journey won’t end exactly in the same place it began.  If we have the faith to listen to His guidance now, we’ll not only land on dry land, but we’ll be stronger and more deeply committed than ever.

 

=   =   =  

How to Join the Congregation

In-Person attendance is currently limited to 25 worshipers. If you want to be part of the congregation for any given Sunday, call the church office to place your “reservation.” Reservations are taken on a first come first served basis.

When you arrive, you will be asked to follow strict safety procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. 

For the current details on this process and for information on what to expect when you arrive, click this button:  Covid Safety

 

+     +     +     +     +     +     +     +

For more on Worship experience at PUMC, click this button:    Worship  

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *