Luke 1:21-25

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” Luke 1:21-25

Last night we had our monthly Church Council meeting at church. We have been an “internet only” congregation since the beginning of the national lockdown back in March. Meanwhile, the virus has raged away. We spent the first hour in conversation about when and how we might begin public worship again. A long explanation has been prepared for the congregation to inform them how the Church Council is thinking about things like metrics for re-opening and what people can expect when we finally do.

This has been a hard time for everybody.

Cut through all the “stuff” that goes into congregation’s worship life and it always comes down to relationships with God and others. There is something comforting, encouraging, and challenging about gathering in the same space. Seeing familiar faces. Excitement to see new faces. Conversation before and after. Checking in with one another as we all pass through the struggles and joys of life.

Into all of this comes the liturgy. The same words heard over and over. The rituals and movement. Voices, musical instruments, water, bread, and wine. Worship faithfully for long enough, surrender to it, give yourself to it, and it becomes who you are. The rhythms of a life following Jesus.

Then – BANG – it is suddenly over.

The people gathered at the temple that day where doing “what they had always done before.” But something went wrong. Zechariah was delayed. Then he came back to the crowd, speechless. Charades didn’t help. Zechariah was embarrassed. The crowd was disappointed. They all went back home.

What the crowd didn’t know was that God was up to something big. God was moving and big changes were just around the corner.

Someday we will gather again for worship in the sanctuary. Someday the virus will be a bad memory but not as immediately fearful. We’re not there yet.

Zechariah’s “someday” was a shared experience with Elizabeth. She was doing the heavy lifting. His job was to be supportive. Both of them were hanging on to hope.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, sometimes we are overwhelmed by the words flying through the air. Sometimes life leaves us speechless. Zechariah and Elizabeth lived through those long months of isolation and preparation, we too are living through a long period of disconnection. Help us make the best of it, never losing hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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