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The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
This past Sunday was Youth Sunday. After all my years in ministry, it remains for me the most inspiring event each year. This year was no exception. In fact, this year was exceptional. I was struck by the fact that in the entire process of preparing for this Sunday, adding recording days, no dress rehearsal practices, and leading it live outside in a parking lot, the youth never blinked. They never complained, never wavered, never indicated they’d rather be indoors or not be recorded for online. They simply stepped up and said yes and led with confidence and joy.
I realized that like many others, I’ve been imagining and hoping for a return to normalcy more than adapting to life as it is and perhaps could be. I’ve spent more time thinking about how much I want to lead worship indoors, to stop setting up and taking down equipment every week, how I want to hug people and get coffee and lunch and sit around tables with youth for Bible study and go on retreats and mission trips and local service than I have spent imagining new ways to live in quarantine and post-pandemic. Tradition and memory are wonderful tools of our tradition, but imagination and dreams are also gifts in and of our faith that help us survive the present and thrive in the future. Our youth reminded me of that this Sunday. They didn’t speak only of the service they had done in the past. They charged us to do what we can to serve now, and gave us specific suggestions how and where.
Our former Moderator of the PC(USA) reminded us at a presbytery meeting recently that our ancestors wandered the desert for 40 years with their church as a tent on the move. And in this passage, Jesus reminds us that God and our worship of God is not a singular place. It’s on the move, wherever it needs to be, lest we become distracted from worship or distanced from one another in relationship because of our allegiance to one single place or space. I’m grateful for those Biblical reminders, and for our youth who keep teaching me new things. Whether we find ourselves in a building, a tent, a parking lot, or online, may we remember their lesson well and worship in spirit and in truth.
Prayer for Today
Lord, as Jesus wandered, make me a wanderer. As my ancestors carried the Temple with them, make me a tent-bearer. As the early Church worshipped on mountains and in houses, make me eager to worship wherever I am in spirit and in truth. Amen.