“A time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23) Jesus was on his way home, that is to the region of Galilee. His chosen route took him through Samaria, an area despised by Jews. While in the town of Sycha he engages in conversation with a woman who, among other things, questions Jesus about the correct place to worship, on Mt. Nebo as Samaritans believed, or at the temple in Jerusalem, as was believed by Jews. Jesus’ answer simply put was “both and neither.”
Events of past weeks have stirred within many people the desire to return to a special place of worship, a place where we have in the past and believe we can again experience God’s presence in a special way. We look forward to reentering these places, believing that with the lessening of restrictions related to COVID-19, that time will come. But not yet.
So we may ask, “Is being in one of these settings necessary to worship God? Does God dwell in one place more than in another?” This is, in a sense, what the Samaritan woman asked Jesus. His answer was “no.” “God is Spirit,” said Jesus, “and true worshipers must worship God in spirit and in truth.” The good news for this woman and for us is that true worship of God is not contingent on being on Mt. Nebo, at the temple in Jerusalem, or in any or our sanctuaries, as special to us as these places may be.
How long will it be before we can again safely gather in these places? We don’t know for sure. Maybe by the end of this month. Maybe much longer. But regardless of the duration of current circumstances, we can still worship together in spirit and in truth. As members of one universal family, the family of God, our hearts and minds are united in common faith, a faith that is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And we don’t have to be inside the sanctuary of a church to celebrate this fact and the hope it brings.
Steve McVay is pastor at Saratoga United Methodist Church in Lyon County. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of this newspaper.