The Coronavirus pandemic has made us think in new ways for how we might gather still as a faith community.
In spite of social distancing we have found a safe way to meet together every Sunday morning.
We have needed to adapt and we have needed to prayerfully listen very carefully to the voice of the Holy Spirit so as to be faithful to God at this time and in this place.
We are not the first group of worshippers that have needed to adapt and to change our worship practices.
For the early Jewish community their whole way of worshiping God was changed when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.
At that time, they suddenly needed to adapt and to figure out how to worship God when their central place of meeting and worshiping God was destroyed.
For the Jewish people the temple was the central place of worship.
It was so central to their faith and their way of life that is actually very difficult for us today to truly understand how devastating the destruction of the temple was for them.
God was present in and through the temple.
There very channel to God was now cut off.
They were now separated from God.
They were forced to make sense of their faith without the temple.
In time God began to speak to them in new ways.
Prayer became began to take on more importance because you could pray any where and in any place.
The written Word became more important because you could hear the Word any where and in any place.
The destruction of the temple affected the early Christians as well.
For the early Christians they too began to see that God was not in a building.
For example, Jesus foresaw the destruction of the temple when he said in the Gospel of John destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.
Jesus here is speaking of himself.
He is the one who is to be worshiped and glorified not a building.
Seeing that the temple was gone Christians also came to some new insight into their faith.
God is with them even if there is no building, no central worship temple.
For the early Christians they had no building and so they met in houses.
Their faith was shaped from Jesus’ teachings with an understanding that God is present whenever two or more gather together in his name.
This new theology was further developed in their understanding of the advocate.
Jesus was sending to his followers a great helper who would be called the Advocate.
The advocate is also sometimes translated from the Greek as the Comforter.
The Comforter is the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is always present with us whether we are in our building or not.
The Spirit is the One that teaches us truths about God, the One that testifies to the work of God in the world, the One who convicts us of our sin and our need for God, and the One who will work for us and defend us against all forces that oppose God and all the powers of darkness and all evil.
The Advocate is our great defender.
The Advocate is the One that keeps us together during this challenging time.
I have a good friend who is a tree farmer who lives in the Madison area.
I have been keeping in touch with him over the phone during this time.
Recently, he asked me how things were going at our church.
He texted me, I assume that attendance is low right now.
I texted back not at all!
And then I went on to text… The people of Williams Bay Lutheran believe in their church and in the mission of God here in this place.
We have stayed together during this time and that is a testament to the work of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that draws us together, and the One that helps us to adapt and to learn new ways to remain together as the Body of Christ.
We have discovered new and helpful ways for how we might do the Lord’s will at this time.
This is indeed the work of the Advocate.
I know that my simple sermons are not drawing us together faithfully every Sunday morning.
It is our faith in God that is compelling us to remain a part of the Body of Christ in this particular faith community of Williams Bay Lutheran.
The Advocate is stirring us and bringing us together each and every Sunday.
And I am happy to say that we have not missed one Sunday during this pandemic.
There was not one Sunday where we did not hold worship.
Every Sunday morning, we have had worship together during this pandemic.
Not one Sunday has passed where there was no worship here.
And now each Sunday morning when I get up and get ready for Sunday worship, I prepare my heart and my mind for worship while having faith and trust that the Spirit will draw us together.
I have faith and trust that I will not preach into my computer to no one.
I have faith and trust that the Holy Spirit will gather the Lord’s people together to hear the Word proclaimed.
The Word of God is powerful.
The Word creates faith within us.
I do not come to this time of worshipping thinking…
I sure hope someone is out there listening.
No, I have faith and trust that God will continue to draw us together for worship.
This pandemic will not be the death of our church.
The Advocate abides in us and the Advocate is with us even at a time like this.
The Advocate which is the Spirit of truth will breath new life within us during this Easter season.
So much of our daily living and our common way of worshipping has been altered.
But even with that said something new is emerging.
Although it is not what it used to be, our Sunday morning worship that is, I love our Sunday Webex Worship.
I love it because it is a sign and a witness to me during these heavy days that we have not given up on meeting together and that we still believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit with and for us even when we cannot meet in our building.
Jesus said tear down this temple and I will raise it up in three days.
Nothing can steal our faith.
Our faith, which comes as a gift from God, cannot be taken from us.
Our faith compels us to meet together still and to find out together how we can respond to the Advocate at work in our midst.
If there is one thing that we have learned during this time of social distancing it is that everyone’s life matters to everyone else’ life.
Our lives are connected in an endless web of lives.
For Christians the glue that holds this web all together is the Advocate.
The Holy Spirit which binds us together into one Body.
As we struggle and wrestle to inhabit this strange time that we are living through right now the Advocate will be on our side and the Advocate will help us to spend this time in way that loves our neighbor and ourselves.
Right now, we might be thinking how long will it take for us to put this time behind us.
Will it take a month, two months, all summer, until winter, all year…?
But the Spirit is saying this to us – how will you use this time while you still have breath for the glory of God?
How will you use this time when I am still speaking to you?
How will you spend the time that you have been given right now?
This coming week how will you keep and hold sacred the time that God will give you?
What if we were to try this…?
What if this coming week we used the last five minutes of our day right before we fall asleep to pray to God.
Maybe this is something you already do.
If not try this simple spiritual practice.
Pray that God might guide you to use this time as the Spirit calls you to use it.
So often we use the last few precious minutes of our day to think about who we are mad at, who we are upset with, what went wrong with our day, what we are worrying about, who did this and why someone did that, and so on.
Instead what if we prayed to God during those last few minutes of every day and then trusted truly trusted and believed that the Advocate is working on our behalf and that we are not alone but that we are always a part of the whole family of God.
And then and only then we fall asleep.
The Advocate might show us some new ways to live out our faith during this time.
The Advocate might be calling us to live out our faith together in some new and hope filled ways.
May God bless us as we look to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.