We’ve been dodging the coronavirus for more than six months. In the early days, when we first came to grips with the pandemic sweeping our world, we literally shut down our cities and our neighborhoods.
At first, we hunkered in our houses refusing to venture outside except for the bare necessities. Some stood in line for toilet paper. Our brave grocery store staff continued to work, stocking shelves, cheerfully shuttling grocery orders to the parking lots where they loaded food into the trunk of our car.
Drive-through and fast-food restaurants remained open with masks and gloves. Other “essential services” kept us afloat. Churches closed their doors and learned to stream on Facebook and the web. We Zoomed in until we were Zoomed out.
For the last month or more, we’ve been cautiously reopening and reconnecting. Restaurants have learned how to isolate and distance their tables. Wait staff have learned how to “smile through a mask.” Outside dining has been expanded onto sidewalks and streets. Shops are reopening. Masked students are reentering classrooms. We’re even starting to move about the country, albeit cautiously and slowly.
Churches have started to reconvene, attempting to refrain from impulsive hugs and handshakes that are integral to Christian fellowship. Some, who have the option, are choosing to meet inside, scattered 6 feet apart among empty chairs and open pews. Others are meeting in the open air as long as weather permits.
Since my wife and I are in the high-risk group, we’ve chosen the open-air option for worship, taking advantage of the opportunity to visit different churches that are meeting in open space. We take our folding chairs, look for shade or open an umbrella against the sun’s rays and find a space at least 6 feet apart from other families.
I’ve found my heart warmed by these “Jesus communities,” as I like to call them, gathering in parks, parking lots and open spaces for worship. I love to see small children running barefoot through the grass looking for their friends; families gathered in the shade where children play on blankets while their parents sing songs of praise and the preacher preaches.
It reminds me of the first century when Jesus walked in Galilee and people sought him in the open fields, when churches sprang up without buildings and places to meet. Surely, God is up to something through all the global suffering, heartache and struggle in 2020. Surely, he wants to draw us to himself for comfort, encouragement, healing and a reminder that we’re all his children. We were all created in his image, and his greatest desire is that we love one another regardless of our racial, cultural or national differences.
As the Scripture says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward one another that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:5-7).