I Miss Church

  • Post category:COVID-19

Written by Drew Naumann

Psalm 27:4-5

One thing I have desired of the Lord,

That will I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

All the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the Lord,

And to inquire in His temple.

5 For in the time of trouble

He shall hide me in His pavilion;

In the secret place of His tabernacle

He shall hide me;

He shall set me high upon a rock.

Perhaps you know who I am quoting in the title of this devotion. Maybe it sounds like a friend. Maybe it sounds like you. As we sit in quarantine, unable to join together with our respective friends and family in Christ, we might find ourselves declaring “I miss church.” 

This is not a new sentiment. We find ourselves prohibited from joining together in local fellowship, from partaking together in Word and sacrament, and from prayer and praise together in the house of the Lord. We certainly aren’t the first people to be in this situation. Though many people over the course of history have probably said “I miss church”, if you guessed that I am quoting King David in particular, you are correct. 

Frankly put, King David got the boot several times from Jerusalem. This king and ruler of God’s people, Israel, was no stranger to being on the lam. Firstly, when Saul pursued him in fits of jealous rage, then again when his son Absolom usurped his rule and forced him out of the capital. As Lutheran tradition has it, Psalm 27 was written by David as he fled Saul sometime around the time that Doeg the Edomite sold out the priests who gave David the temple show-bread and Goliath’s sword in 1 Samuel 22.

And as he fled from the sword of the temperamental and incensed king Saul, he wrote the words of this psalm. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple.”

In the Old Testament period God had ordained only one place for offerings, and sacrifices: Jerusalem. Hence, the regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem by the Jews. As David fled among the country of foreigners, it comes as no surprise that he longed for worship in the place prescribed by his Lord for worship.

We live in a time when these words of royal David ring especially true. Believers all over the world find themselves echoing the sentiments found in this psalm. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” Yet, we find ourselves unable to do so.

Certainly there are many cares which our attention requires. Families suddenly found with a smaller income and a restricted ability to provide. Students discovering that they will not be able to walk across the stage for graduation this year. Retirement aged individuals who find themselves at a significant loss after the recent stock market trends.

But if you sympathize with the plight of David in this psalm, as many do, the one thing that we have taken for granted almost our entire lives suddenly becomes quite the gaping hole in our routine and in our lives. We can’t drive to church each Sunday morning to join our voices with like minded believers to confess that we have been sinful and unclean and, in turn, receive absolution from the minister in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can’t stand in the pews to receive the Benediction of our Lord. We couldn’t raise the beautiful strain “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” in our respective congregations at the Easter sunrise service this year.

They say that you don’t miss what you have until it’s gone. And worship sits atop the list in many hearts as we sit in quarantine this Spring. Well, what do we do when we find ourselves unable to partake in our regular worship at church? When we desire “one thing” but don’t seem to have a way to get to it?

We find our answer in our text: “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

God’s ability to bring us to himself in worship is not limited to our ability to gather in one or another local place. His grace is not hampered by stay-at-home orders or public health fears and concerns. We are not separated from God’s mercy and forgiveness for sins by our inability to gather any more than David was prohibited from worship in the midst of his flights. We see clearly in Psalm 27 that David would not let his inability to return to Zion, holy Jerusalem, dissuade him from recording and proclaiming the power and mercy of God toward His people.

Neither should we allow ourselves to be drawn in by perceived limitations in our worship practices and kingdom work by social distancing. As God has blessed us with the ability to worship together at a distance, we ought to take advantage of the opportunities to hear the Word and confess our faith each week, especially in this Easter season.. 

Technology enables us to tune in for worship online, where we are blessed to continue to hear the gospel message proclaimed by His faithful ministers across the country. Confirmed in the knowledge of our Savior, Jesus Christ, risen and triumphant over the grave, sin, and death, we have possibly the best opportunities of our lives to offer the comfort and assurances of eternal riches and glory to those friends and family we have who are suffering from doubts and uncertainty in these troublesome times. 

When money, distance from friends and family, sickness, and confusion rock the world as we know it, we have the blessed facts which Jesus has made known to us: His grace to help in time of need and eternal life awaiting all those who fully lean on Jesus for deliverance from their dreadful condition of sin.

Let us then echo the wonderful yearnings of King David, “one thing I have desired of the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” As blessed as we are to live in the New Testament period, without any strictures concerning location for worship, let us take full advantage of whatever position we find ourselves in. Whether that be parents teaching their children about the selfless sacrifice of their Savior, individuals establishing truths we have already known, or friends sharing the good news of the empty tomb with others. What a blessed void has been created in the world’s confidences! A void ready and primed to be filled by the story of Jesus’ living and dying for sinners to be saved!

May our focus ever be on dwelling in the house of the Lord, on abiding in His Word and sharing that Word, wherever we may be. And when we are allowed to gather once again in churches across the nation, may we give thanks that the Spirit has seen fit to gather like-minded believers together to receive His promises of grace so freely given. All this so that in times of peace or crisis we may be counted with Mary as she sat at the feet of Christ, praised for her reverence and recognition of the one thing needed: the gospel of sinners saved through Christ. “That good part, which will not be taken away.” Amen.