We stand on the brink of one of the strangest Holy Weeks of my life. Unable to go to church because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pretty sure this will be the first Easter Sunday that I don’t visit a sanctuary and worship.
I certainly understand and am thankful that “church” is not the building, but the people. As Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, the temple or building is not the key to worship so long as God’s people worship him in spirit and in truth. We are also fortunate to be able to visit the church to record our worship and stream it on Sunday mornings so in a sense our congregation (and others who have never been inside our church) can worship together. But at the same time, there is something really special about joining with others who love the Lord, lifting our voices together in praise, and serving together.
I was reminded of that feeling earlier this week as I read Psalm 84. It is titled “My Soul Longs for the Courts of the Lord,” and expresses the thoughts of a man who wants to go to the temple in Jerusalem but cannot for some reason. Verses 1 through 3 hit me hard as I long to gather with the church on Sunday:
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
Yes, I will shout joyfully to the living God when this crisis is over and we are able to gather together with one another without fear! God also used the rest of this psalm to encourage me. Here are verses 10 and 11:
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
What does it mean that the Lord God is a sun and a shield? God is my “sun” in the way that he provides the things I need and is sufficient for whatever I face. God is my “shield” because he protects me and provides me with security even when there is great uncertainty and anxiousness. In the face of these strange times, where an invisible virus threatens the things that we take for granted, like going to church, and the people we love, I am so glad to know that God is in control and is still my sun and my shield.
And I don’t have to go to a certain building to find him, for he bestows favor and honor and withholds no good thing from me wherever I walk. But I still can’t wait to be back with my church family – so start practicing that joyful shout!