Won’t you come back?

Won’t you come back?

Almost exactly two years ago, Cyndi and I were visiting our daughter, Rachel, in North Carolina, when we received news of the shutdown. A virus called “Covid-19” was spreading like wildfire. No one knew how to stop it or how it worked. So, the state of Washington, along with many other states, went into emergency quarantine. With limited exceptions, we were told to stay home and avoid contact with others outside our family.

The shutdown included churches. That weekend, our plans for on-line worship were suddenly accelerated. A one-year plan became a one-week plan. And all of us found ourselves sitting home that Sunday morning, worshiping virtually…for the first time as a congregation.

Can you believe it has been two years? I can! And made all the more maddening by a couple of viral head fakes! A year ago, we thought that Covid was on the ropes. Then along came Omicron, and the restrictions were back in place. We’ve learned a lot and God has been very, very kind to us as a congregation as we’ve navigated these ever-changing, ever-roiling waters.

But—Hallelujah—today marks a turning point. Today, the governor’s mask mandate has been lifted. Which means, tomorrow, you can return to church…mask-free…and guilt-free for the first time in nearly two years. (Of course, if you need to continue wearing a mask, you are WELCOME to do so! This is a no-shame zone!)

But for those who have been holding back, waiting for an announcement that assured you it was safer to return to public worship, your moment has come! I invite you to come back home! Yes, on-line worship is convenient. Yes, it is a boon to those who are trapped in home or in a hospital bed or on the road for whatever reason. Virtual worship is here to stay and we believe it to be a great opportunity.

BUT…BUT…BUT beloved, it is not the same as being together. Worshiping in your living room can never replace the sounds of your fellow singers, the sights of your church family and friends, the inspiration that comes when we listen to God’s Word proclaimed in person. It is not the same. It was never intended to be the same.

Christianity is an incarnational religion. God could have just sent a message to humanity. Instead, he sent his Son…in the flesh…to be with us, face to face. That should remind us something of the need for real, live, flesh and blood encounters with God and his people. 

So…come back home. This Sunday. In fact, I’d ask this: come back four weeks in a row. If you’ve been away a while, it takes some time to rebuild muscle memory. Come for a month, without fail. And you will remember what you might have forgotten: there is nothing like being together with your church family on a Sunday morning. Nothing at all.

And when you come back this week, we will celebrate your incredible generosity to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. As of this moment, we have received….no, I think I’ll save it for Sunday morning. It is such an unbelievable response I want you to be there to gasp together! (If you haven’t given yet and want to contribute to the gasp-worthiness of the announcement, you may give here.

I will interview Doug Burleigh, our missionary to the Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. No one is better situated to bring us up to speed on all that is happening there. AND, we will celebrate the election of our new elders and deacons at a congregational meeting following the first service. 

Oh, two last things. First, we will be tackling a passage which Martin Luther once said was “…a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament.” You don’t want to miss it. AND…don’t forget…this is the start of Daylight Savings time. Set your clocks forward one hour.

I’d love to see as many of your smiling faces as possible this weekend, so please be sure to come back to the wood wall in our lobby following the worship service you attend; I can’t wait to talk with you!

No more masks…wheee! Come home. And celebrate with us.

Pastor Mark

Photo by Elena Mozhvito on Unsplash