We have always known it. Faith is about more than what can be seen with the eyes. Ask the writer to the Hebrews, who tells us: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Ask the Apostle Paul, who says “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but he things which are not seen are eternal.” We are mindful that when we worship, we are in the presence of the “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” But “hybrid worship” is teaching us that there are a lot of other things going on that we might not be seeing when we worship.
If you have not returned to “in-person worship”, or even if you have, I want to point out some of the “unseen” things that occurred during a recent “hybrid worship service” at St. Luke’s. It was a couple of weeks ago and the worship service was beginning. Some in the congregation (33 people) had gathered in the sanctuary, donning masks for the well-being of themselves and others. Others the congregation (53 people) was worshiping virtually from the many places (7 different states and 4 different countries) they might have been. Others in the congregation (82 people) would, through technology, participate in the service within the space of the next week. Nanette was at the welcome desk, on the computer, pulling the “virtual congregation” together with on-line liturgy and comments.
Just another Sunday morning of “virtual worship” at St. Luke’s. Until a guest arrived. A woman who happened to be homeless and troubled by mental illness. Suddenly Nanette pivoted to “companioning” our guest who encountered challenges beyond her coping as she was welcomed into the sanctuary. Nanette immediately turned the on-line host responsibilities over to Jane Earnhart, who carried out those responsibilities on-line from Springfield, Missouri. Nanette’s duties turned to charging our guest’s phone, walking outside with her and helping her light a cigarette. All the while, the congregation overlooking the commotion of the morning.
After the service concluded, I learned our visitor needed a ride to get where she wanted to go. The best alternative was calling an Uber. My wife, who was worshiping virtually that day while caring for Frank, has an Uber App on her phone. Nanette texted Dianne and within two minutes the Uber driver had arrived and our friend was on the way after we had provided her a face mask as required by Uber. (A fee covered by generous support of the Dollar Fund for just such occasions of hospitality.)
Nobody saw it as a distraction. Many didn’t see it at all. But who saw it as worship? Anyone who merely looked at what met the eye that morning would be missing the divine encounter that was going on. An encounter that, though it might have gone unseen, was much larger and reached far beyond the walls of the sanctuary. People not even in the building, joining together in one spirit, to worship and to actually engage in responding to expressing hospitality and care for one another and for any who come our way.
From “hybrid worship” we are quickly and clearly learning that worship doesn’t look like we might expect it to. Sometimes Worship isn’t even something we can always see. Worship is bigger than that. It is encountering and living into the eternal purpose of the “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” who continues to do a new thing among and through us at St. Luke’s. Thanks be to God!