A church that was fined for holding in-person worship services (despite British Columbia having an emergency order that bans any and all gatherings) said they did it because “God is here, and we want to be where God is.”
What a sad and narrow theology. Because, yes, of course God is in their church building, and present in their community; I have no doubt of that. But is God not elsewhere? The ancient Hebrews got sent into exile in Babylon centuries ago, far from the promised land. Their biggest fear seemed to be that God was stuck in the Temple back in Jerusalem, and so they would be far away from God. But a number of prophets reminded them that God was with them, wherever they were.
The gospel of John uses a wonderful euphemism in the prologue (John 1:1-18) that we often read at this time of year: it tells us that Jesus has “pitched his tent in our midst.” What a great image! Jesus is here, with us, and goes with us, wherever we go. When we find ourselves in any place of difficulty, God is there. When we are feeling scared and alone and abandoned, God is there. When we are stuck at home for Christmas, with our families only pre3sent through the wonders of Zoom and Skype, God is still there, with us and with them.
So, to the churches that say they need to have worship because they want to be where Go is – open yourself to the wondrous reality that God is everywhere. Always. I think that’s why we call Jesus “Immanuel” – God with us.