I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1)
Dear Friends in Christ,
These words, which are found in a selection of psalms known as Psalms of Ascent, were recited and sung countless times by generations of pilgrims traversing the road up Mt. Zion. They were on their way to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. For some, this was a once in a lifetime experience, and they savored every moment of the journey.
Reading the psalm, I can imagine a mountain road clogged with travelers from every corner of Israel. As they make their way in quiet determination, I can hear a voice calling out, “I was glad when they said to me…” And then, a chorus of fellow wayfarers responds with a full-throated, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” I imagine their hearts lifted, their steps lightened, accompanied by laughter, joy, tears, and deep gratitude.
This is how I have felt in recent days as I eagerly await the return of in-person worship, which will resume on April 11. It has been a long journey. So, when Session discerned—after so faithfully wrestling with the matter for many months—that it was indeed time to return to worship, my heart soared with gratitude and with relief. It was as if I found myself among the throng of pilgrims on a sacred journey!
While the long wait to return to worshipping together in person nears an end, I do not want us to forget the journey it has taken to get here, nor lose sight of the road ahead. While it may feel as though this past year was a lost one, I am beginning to wonder whether it was actually a gift. It has been a time of waiting, but also a time of preparation.
This is not to neglect the sorrow of being apart or discount the untold suffering in our world, but if every day is a gift from God, then there can be no such thing as a lost year. Each moment is simply part of the journey, and another opportunity to place our trust in God.
As we prepare to return to worshiping in person, let us remember how we as a body chose to be apart for the welfare of others. Let us not lose sight that by foregoing something so dear to us, we were following the example of Christ who suffered for our sins. Through it all, we have adapted, we have grown, we have wept, we have prayed, we have celebrated, and we have given thanks. We have placed our trust in God, and the Spirit has never let us down. In all these things, God has blessed us.
I pray the journey has given you pause to consider what it means to go to the house of the Lord. I pray that when you return you will be glad, even if it means, for the time being, wearing a mask, social distancing, and fellowship. I also pray that when we are together again, as we see one another face to face, and as we share our stories, the fullness of God’s blessings will become more apparent to us. Lastly, I pray we will never forget that the true house of the Lord is not a place, but a people.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers, your support, and your sacrificial witness throughout this long year of pandemic. Praise be to God that we could share this journey together.