St. Andrew's
United Church of Christ

1320 Spruce Street, Reading, PA  19602-2161
"More than a Century of Service to the City"

Message From the Pastor

"The Body of Christ"

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." - 1 Corinthians 12:27

There are those within the Church who have seen some of the adjustments that have been made necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis as a blessing in disguise. Many in the ranks of denominational leadership along with evangelism and church growth "experts" have been advocating for churches to shift to on-line programming because, they argue, so much of our younger people's time is already experienced and lived via electronic media. A year ago, with the novel coronavirus spreading exponentially, many congregations were unable to gather for worship, fellowship, and education. To fill the void, some began to offer worship on Facebook, or via Zoom, or through other electronic means.

More than twelve months into the pandemic crisis, quite a few of our sister churches even now have not reached the point of returning to in-person worship. All of us who have experienced "virtual" worship would likely agree that it is, at best, a useful substitute when worship In Real Life is just not possible. I doubt that many of us would go so far as to deem it on par with a service of worship experienced in real life, in the familiar confines of the church nave, in the midst of the congregation.

When we gather together with sisters and brothers in Christ, we experience voices lifted together in praise of our God, perhaps in the words of this familiar hymn: "We share our mutual woes, / Our mutual burdens bear, / And often for each other flows / The sympathizing tear." Hands clasped at the passing of the peace, the warm smile of greeting from family and friends, the unspoken sermon preached by symbols displayed in stained glass, embroidered cloth, and carved wood, and that palpable sense of community as all listen intently as God's Word is read and as all pray fervently--we long to come together again to experience the essential elements of our worship that virtual reality can neither replicate nor offer an adequate substitute.

We instinctively know, I think, that "right" worship is necessarily experienced live and in person. If we have had trouble formulating a convincing response to those who have argued quite passionately that the future of the Church is to be lived out primarily on-line, the season of Eastertide reminds us of the basic truth of our Christian faith. The message of the Gospel is that Christ rose from the dead, and that he appeared, not virtually, but in the flesh to those who were called to become His witnesses. In the upper room on that first Sunday after Easter, Jesus invited Thomas to put his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in the riven side. So it stands, then, that we who are the Church, the body of Christ, must likewise come together that the body of Christ can be experienced and continue to be seen in the world, enfleshed, and not as mere shadow in the realm of virtual reality.

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