We had an abbreviated Sunday morning worship service online, via Facebook Live, at our usual gathering time on Sunday morning.

Here’s what I noticed:

I don’t know what I’m doing.

[How does Facebook Live work? What page do I have to be on? OK, how do I make a comment? Wait, what … ? Etc.]

That made me feel like a dunce. [Why didn’t you do a dry run of this, Heather???] Welcome to social media.

The first few notes of Amazing Grace on the piano did more than make me cry. [Did I know how homesick I was for a sound? Not till that moment.]

Social media is a surreal mix of connection and disconnection.

Fewer people than usual attended [“attended”?]. That included some people who don’t normally attend. [It felt GREAT to “see” the folks we don’t see much! Oh, look, THEM!!! Heart emoji …]

But some “regulars” were missing. [Where was …?] That was a little lonely.

Some of the “watching now” names might have represented more than one person. But all you can see is a name, a tiny picture disk, a few words … They’re here! And, at the same time, not.

I sensed a a Whole New World of possible social pitfalls. [Because: Facebook lets you give little emojis to people and to moments of the live stream; they’re public; so, if I give a thumbs up or a heart to someone who signs on, then do I need to give one to everyone? What about the people who signed on before me? What about to the comments people make? Will people feel slighted if I don’t thumbs up THEIR comment? [Because who ever got their feelings hurt at church, eh?] That would be bad and sad … So, welcome to the need for new social conventions, and a new opportunity to hurt people’s feelings, to make people angry, and to figure out how to manage appearances and which ones to manage and which ones to care about … sheesh.]

The responses!! We are not THAT liturgical of a church, but we do have some liturgy. So when Pastor Cindy finished up the scripture and said “The Word of God for the people of God,” my automatic, imperative, and in this environment, unfulfilled impulse is to say “Thanks be to God.” I assume a lot of other people felt the same thing, because a little silent chorus of online “Thanks be to God’s” pop-pop-popped up in the comments section.

And of course, we were missing some of the accustomed ceremony. There was no Christ candle; there was no congregational singing (one of the best parts!); there was no “passing of the peace” (another one of the best parts!); etc.

Aside from the obvious: there were no actual other people in actual physical space, together. We were not together, together.

Which is the point of all this, after all. There are urgent, critical, public health emergency type reasons why getting together with actual physical others in actual physical space is not the best way to love our neighbors as ourselves on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 2020.

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So we will take what we can get, and carry on.

I felt intense gratitude to the individuals who made our remote worship service happen – our pastor, our music director who is a wonderful pianist, our does-everything sound system person, our pastor’s daughter and camera-phone engineer …

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I missed the chance to shake the pastor’s hand and tell her what a great sermon that was!

On the ninth chapter of John, “the man born blind.” One of those “every year” stories, so deeply familiar. And yet …

Our pastor pointed out something I’d never really thought of “that way” before – that here was a person who had his sight restored as an adult … that is, as someone who already knows the world, has an accustomed experience of it, an understanding of it … and now has to integrate a flood of new sensory input … a whole new channel, we might say … which makes everything he already knows into something different, unfamiliar.

He has to find out what everything means, all over again.

That process takes time. We see it unfold through the course of the story. We see his understanding of Jesus develop, deepen, become faith.

Mostly in response to questions he’s asked, and in the course of his struggle to answer those questions, to make sense of his experience.

He doesn’t have all the answers immediately. He doesn’t have access to the full depth of what happened to him, the full depth of what it means, the full depth of his faith, all at once. He needs time. He has to learn.

And that is not so different from us.

Even now.

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“I am the resurrection and the life” John 11:25