Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
On Sunday I enjoyed worshiping online with Trinity Presbyterian church, University City. It was a pleasure saying hello to people as we tuned into the live worship service. The interaction with the online chat during the passing of the peace and as we left the worship service was unique. It was even cool watching people text “hearts” and “thumbs up” as Marilyn Gamm preached. I guess that’s the closest we’ll come to saying “Amen!”
Yet, the longer we remain sheltered in place, the more I miss attending worship. Like many of you, this is the longest I’ve gone without attending in-person worship. Years ago while working for State Farm, I was called from my home in Chicago to perform catastrophic duty in Galveston Texas. A hurricane had landed and done major destruction. While in Galveston I worked seven days a week for six straight weeks, pulling 12 – 14 hour shifts. It was hot, muggy, and brutal. And I missed my church in Chicago. I remember thinking that if I could just stand in the entrance of the church, that would be helpful. If I could just drive by the building, I would be satisfied. If I could just pass by the exit on the expressway to my church, I would be happy. I longed and ached for worship and being in the midst of God’s people.
In his book, There is a God, There is no God, John Kirvan believes that modern spirituality is a shift from perfection to desire. He writes, “The spirituality of ‘perfection’ that has so long dominated many of our lives- and intimidated them- has given way to a spirituality of desire, of longing, to a spirituality of ‘incompleteness and contradiction.’ A spirituality of restlessness (42).” Kirvan reminds us that the longing and desire we experience are the core feeling of hunger and thirst that the psalmist is referring to in Psalm 42:
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? Psalm 42:1-2 NRSV.
This time of COVID-19 is a time of longing. It can become a time of longing for God if we are willing to turn our affection toward the Divine. The longing and desire to be in church and with one another can lead us to a deeper spiritual hunger–a hunger that can only be satisfied by the living God.
Perhaps this can be a period of transformation as well. As we reenter the world of our churches, we can enter as new creations in Christ.
Churches will open again. They will open after sessions have met and determined a timetable and opening strategy. As we wait, let us accept the longing that we feel and take hold of the desire that has taken hold of us. Let us nurture our spirits with waters of the Holy Spirit as we wait for the doors of the church to open again. Amen.
Rev. Craig M. Howard