A concert: a stage, lights, 100 chairs filled with tuxedoes or a hundred speakers reverberating with electronically amplified sounds. Whether it is a show by the rock band AC/DC or an evening at the symphony, seeing a live performance is an extraordinary experience.
But why go to the concert? I can probably buy every album AC/DC has produced for less than the cost of a concert ticket. CDs featuring classical music can be found in every book shop and bric-a-brac store. I can get more music for my money by staying home. Why would I ever choose to make the sacrifice to attend in person?
We live in an era when “virtual community” is one of many buzz phrases. The idea is that via electronic means we can stay connected to other people. We are no longer limited to having friends who are geographically local to us. Now we can communicate with and share life with those whom we have never seen, whom we have never even spoken with.
Social media has revolutionized our ministry, enabling us to support and connect with those far removed from ourselves. We can maintain a personal connection with those overseas, using voice and video.
And still, we gather.
But what if this week we set aside the time to alter our routines so that we can see each other face-to-face. We use Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Skype, etc. and yet still we desire to come together. Virtual community alone doesn’t seem to have satisfied us.
One of the glories of the Incarnation is that God became present with us in a new way. God is always with us, has always been with us, and yet Immanuel opened a new avenue for relationship. We recognize that the coming of Christ was significant because He came among us, entered into life with us, allowed us to see Him, touch Him, hear His voice—to connect in a way that was not possible before.
Some say that “incarnational ministry,” is living out Jesus in our relationships with others. Perhaps one of the ways we do that is to come, or to go, to be near those we desire to connect with. There is something spiritual about being physically present with one another, sharing the same space, unfiltered and unencrypted by any electronic means. It is worth it to us to touch and to listen, with nothing in the way.
Let us spend this Holy Week present with each other. Let us consider the unique opportunity we have in sharing life together, talking with each other, serving each other and caring for each other which we cannot do through virtual means. In what special ways might we spend time with the Lord as a result of stepping away from our usual habits?
I know that I have listened to many of Beethoven’s compositions. But I recall the experience of witnessing the Dallas Symphony Orchestra fill the Meyerson Center with his music. We know each other’s Twitter handles. But what experience can we have together, worshipping and growing in the Lord this week? What needs might we meet and have met which can never be satisfied with a few sentences typed on a computer screen or a mobile device? What might the Lord have for us in being present here with one another?
Photo source: istock
Allen Hamlin / Allen Hamlin has served overseas for 10 years, and provides team building consultation around the world. He currently lives in Wales, and oversees ministries in the southern UK. He is the author of Embracing Followership (Kirkdale Press; Feb 2016).