I grew up in the church. Baptized, confirmed, married, and involved. I endeavor to worship God with my whole life, but I highly value the practice of corporate worship. Every week, until two months ago, Chris and I would wake up the inhabitants of our home, get ready, and go to church. We would worship together with our entire congregation through singing, reading, giving, and serving. Every week, until two months ago, the corporate worship I’ve participated in has taken place within the confines of a building.
I’ve listened to countless sermons and teachings on the belief that the church is not a building, but a group of people who gather for the express purpose of demonstrating their devotion for an audience of one—God. People all across the globe enthusiastically and wholeheartedly align with the basic tenets of this assertion: the church isn’t a building, it’s the people. In these Corona virus days, the rubber of belief has hit the proverbial road of testing and it continues to skid down the shelter in place highway and the brakes are shot. The people are not in the building and we are freaking the #^%! out.
This isn’t the first time the church has been prohibited from gathering (in person or in public) for worship. In chapter 6 of the book of Daniel, we read about a time when the high officials in service of King Darius implored him to “establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions” (v. 7-8). With one signature, the high officials, by way of King Darius, declared worship of God non-essential.
Daniel could not offer praise and worship to God in public, but he could not forego worship to God. The story continues, “When Daniel knew that the document and been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (v. 10). When faced with the reality that he could no longer worship in the same manner as he had previously done, he did not cancel worship, he simply altered his method. Daniel demonstrated that worship was essential.
This isn’t a commentary on whether or not I liken our governor to King Darius (because I don’t), nor is this an attempt to liken Daniel’s situation, which forbade him from worshipping God, to ours (because it’s not), but the similarities are clear in my mind. During this time, we might look to Daniel for encouragement. In a time when he could not worship publicly as he was accustomed (which is what we are currently experiencing), he worshipped in his home (which is what we are doing). Daniel demonstrated what it looks like to reimagine worship, though under very different circumstances.
Based on what we know of Daniel and his relationship to King Darius, we might imagine he felt attacked, betrayed, and silenced. Right or wrong, many of us feel that way. But just like with Daniel, the order was only temporary and King Darius was empathetic toward him. Daniel practiced a form of civil disobedience in his heart and home and he accepted the consequences. In similar fashion, we can practice civil obedience and continue to worship in our homes and online until such a time we are allowed to resume gathering in our church buildings, or we may face consequences.
I’m so proud of the capital C church for the many ways we have reimagined worship and have submitted to the authorities set in place by God. It has been hard work, and yes, we are suffering, but it is not forever. As the writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).