Zoom Pentecost

Wow … just think. In two days time we'll have our first Zoom Pentecost.

For weeks now we’ve been meeting remotely. Live streaming, pre-recorded streaming, Zoom-praying, Skyping, phoning, WhatsApping.

And ‘remote’ has felt really remote at times. Removed from friends and family. Able to see and hear them on screen, but no hugs and no noisy socialising.

No smells either. Maybe not such a bad thing I think, as a grandparent who occasionally changes a nappy or two.

Anyway …

Rewind two thousand years.

For weeks the small early church had been meeting in private, in an upper room, waiting and praying. Then the Spirit came and the church moved from a private place behind closed doors to the public space.

God showed up, big time, and the church was born.

Peter preached in Jerusalem to the locals and to foreign pilgrims. Thousands turned to Christ and the church was born - initially continuing to meet at the city temple, then gradually and more informally in people's homes.

The temple, literally a palace of God the King, was the structure and place of meeting which held and symbolised God’s presence.

When Solomon’s temple was dedicated the priests couldn’t do their work because the cloud of the glory of the Lord filled the temple. God showed up.

Later on Paul wrote to the Corinthians and reminded them that they were the temple of God, individually and as a group of believers. When they met, God met with them. As James wrote, when they drew near to him, he drew near to them.

A few hundred years before Solomon’s temple was built, God gave directions to Moses for a place of worship to be made by skilled artisans. It was a moveable structure so it could be transported as the children of Israel travelled from Egypt to the promised land.

Three words in the final chapter of Exodus sum up its purpose:

Tabernacle
It was a ‘dwelling place’. The place where God would reside.

Tent
Like a nomad’s tent. A moveable structure.

Meeting
And a place for meeting at an appointed time.

When the tabernacle tent was first set up a cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord filled it. He showed up.

And from that tent God guided his people.

So then, what about a ‘Zoom Pentecost’?

Well, certainly our experience of church has been dramatically different for the last few weeks. No hugs, no noise, no direct contact, and no smells (of freshly brewed coffee I mean, of course).

But, in essence church has been church.

As we meet remotely God is present and revealing himself and guiding. Even though the ‘tent’ is a laptop screen.

And he’s working and guiding and preparing us to be church in different ways and different places. In ways we could never have imagined.

But, even though we’ve been more rooted to our homes and neighbourhoods, many of us have felt inwardly uprooted. It's been a difficult time, even for those who haven’t been directly affected by the virus.

Sure, it's unsettling.

None of us will emerge from lockdown quite the same as when we entered it.

This is a new time.

And constant change is here to stay.

But the constant reality for a church which seeks God is that he shows up. He inhabits the praises of his people when they meet, despite the distance shrunk by a computer screen.
And our prayer this Zoom Pentecost is that he will show up again.
Big time.

Angus Lyon