Beginning with 2020, we are compelled to contemplate life in terms of before and after the pandemic. Ironically or cynically, that fated year is even easy to recall. Not only the politics, economy, medicine, world affairs, society, and transportation, but religion too had to bow to the invisible enemy, the Covid 19, and suddenly had to change.
The pandemic seriously impacted the church. Even now, after more than two years, we still feel the consequences of the lockdown and social distance. But one of the most devastating outcomes is the inevitable social distancing of our members toward the church itself. Many brothers and sisters still find it challenging to return in person and resume the worship service.
During the pandemic, Zoom was a ‘life-saver”. It was and still is a valuable tool for interacting, bonding, and overcoming distances and fears, but this is as far as it can go. The virtual platforms and the resulting experiences have a contradictory effect: connecting while disconnecting. It connects us to virtual reality but disconnects us from the physical one. The interaction with the spiritual realm is mediated now by an extra filter, the internet, and social media.
Don’t get me wrong, I treasure technologies and appreciate the positives they convey to our lives. At the same time, however, I attempt to be realistic and assess how these technologies might create a separation wall between ourselves and others and even foster a sense of alienation. The church experience is no longer what it used to be.
The Bible contains numerous illustrations of demanding, even impossible, circumstances that were overcome “not by power or by might but by the Spirit of God” in conjunction with that minimal faith we must possess to move the mountains. Now the challenge is upon us to move this mountain of isolation, anxiety, convenience, and apathy and make room for a new, non-filtered experience. Maybe we are waiting for better times, fortunate situations, or even a miracle that would make us whole again while still “confined” in our homes.
But what if we will end up like the community of sufferers from Bethesda that hoped and looked for a sign of relief that never came? If we are waiting for the “moving of the waters”, the Bible is clear: it never happens! The only remarkable thing that did happen at Bethesda was Jesus’ intervention in healing the paralysed man. Jesus is challenging us as He did before: “do you want to get well?” (John 5,6 NIV) – a strange but substantial question. If the answer is yes, then stop lingering for better times or occasions: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (v. 8). And that was a Sabbath day indeed (v.10) …
Let’s “pick up” our anxiety, isolation, convenience, and apathy, throw them away, and walk again to our beloved church to meet our brothers and sisters, especially our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are needed, and we need the others too. Let’s experience and experiment the church again!