Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.’ (John 4:21,23)
I have been dumbfounded, confused, and appalled that some pastors have insisted upon keeping open their churches for worship during this epidemic. I have other feelings as well, but let me refrain from expressing them.
These pastors have kept their churches open for worship, and others have sanctioned them to do so, because worship has been deemed “essential.” This reasoning is both right and terribly wrong.
Is worship essential? Absolutely. Human beings are worshipping creatures. We will all worship something, or someone. If it isn’t the Living God, then it will be something or someone who will not be able to sustain us as God can and will.
But is worshipping in a church essential? Absolutely not. And that’s the point that Jesus is making in today’s scripture. Whereas the Jews and the Samaritans had been squabbling for centuries about the proper place to worship God— “neither on his mountain nor in Jerusalem”—Jesus says that it isn’t the place that matters, it’s the disposition.
What does the Father seek in our worship? Jesus says that the Father wants us to worship “in spirit and truth.” Worshipping in spirit and in truth can be done anywhere, at any time, with anyone. Worshipping in spirit and truth is not done, however, when we put others or ourselves at risk by being together. The Father didn’t give us life so that we would put others in peril in our praises. Jesus didn’t sacrifice His life and then give His permission to potentially sacrifice others by huddling up during this dangerous time.
How can we worship God in spirit and in truth without being together? It is easy, really; since God is everywhere and always with us. Every time we pray for those who are working on a vaccine, or for those who have died and their families, or for the first responders and medical people who are risking their lives, or for those who are sick, or for our leaders to have wisdom, good sense, and courage, we are worshipping. Every time we give thanks to God for all of our blessings, or confess our shortcomings while trusting in His mercy, or lift up those in any need or distress, or simply adore and praise God, we are worshipping.
In terms of our worship this week, what does Jesus want us to hope for? Well, I don’t believe He necessarily wants us to hope for being back in our churches by Easter Day. Will we miss being together, miss the music, miss the pageantry, miss the joy, miss the Alleluias? Of course. But our hope is that we can worship our God for resurrecting Jesus wherever we might be. Just as our God is not limited to a place or time, nor should we.
- What does it mean for you to worship “in spirit and truth?”
- What will help you to stay focused on God this week?
- What is the hope you are given when you trust that the resurrected Jesus is always with you?