The Return

Psalm 147:1-11 (NLT)

Praise the Lord!

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!
The Lord supports the humble,
    but he brings the wicked down into the dust.

Sing out your thanks to the Lord;
    sing praises to our God with a harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
    provides rain for the earth,
    and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.
He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry.
He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
    those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

I would never make direct comparisons between our year-long Covid-19 situation and the decades of exile the people of Israel experienced. As we start to see a return to something like normal lives, however, it is easy to borrow a little of their exuberance.

At the church I pastor, Holston View United Methodist, we are resuming in-person worship this Sunday, with safety precautions, of course. (Masks, social distancing, etc.) Several congregants have expressed their joy at the news.

I am looking forward to preaching to a significant number of people, rather than mostly focusing on a distant black lens. Not that I will forget those of you who are out there watching the worship live on the internet, or the recordings. I know many of you will not be able to return to the sanctuary just yet because of Covid concerns, and we always have a population of folks who are homebound. It’s just nice to get back to a good mix of online and in-person worshipers.

The opening of Psalm 147 certainly guides our response as we return to our sanctuaries and other church activities in phases through 2021. We have much to rebuild: our commitment to the Great Commission, the small groups and social networks that sustain us, and our willingness to unabashedly praise God all come to mind.

He is our great and glorious God! Even in places where we cannot yet shout this truth, may our hearts be filled with it.

We also are reminded of our need to approach God with humility. We enter church understanding we are the broken ones, lacking any perfectly pure knowledge. We enter seeking wisdom and correction, knowing we will be blessed in our encounter with the eternal mind.

As we return, let’s continue to put our hope in his unfailing love, expressed perfectly in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

Lord, as church people we are in different stages of return to our places of worship, depending on our locations and individual situations. As Christians, however, we are bound together by your Holy Spirit, and we pray you empower us to worship you well, wherever we may be. Amen.

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