In reading Exodus chapters 25-31, I have always puzzled at the precise directions God gives Moses for the building and use of the Tabernacle. Precise is one word to describe those directions. Another one is exact. I always finish reading those chapters by marveling how Moses accomplished to follow those directions in the Wilderness. However, he did and, as always, there is a lesson in the story.
As a retired person, I no longer need an appointment calendar. While I do record meetings with doctors and dentists in the family calendar, the ones I used to keep where I recorded daily meetings now gathers dust in a cabinet drawer or rots in some landfill. My wife Mary Ann and I no longer say, “I have to meet with so-and-so,” or “I have to be in Arlington tomorrow for a meeting.” In fact, since we have retired, we no longer use the phrase, “I have to.”
Because of our relaxed daily, weekly, yearly schedules, we can now say, “I get to.”
In her fine novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, has one of her “porch characters” named Jones describe the new mayor of town in these words, “Joe Starks is too exact wid folk.” As Jones means, being too exact or precise can be a problem. But not in Exodus and its message.
While Mary Ann and I have less recorded appointments during retirement, we both have kept Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings open for church activities. You could even rightfully observe that we have fallen into habit on those days, but I prefer to think that we are following ritual. Much like the Ancient Wanders in the Wilderness, we have an exact time and way of observance for those two days of the week. And like all repeated activities, they have become easier with the passing of weeks into months into years. While we have not conducted our attendance out of rote, we have performed it over and over. Habit? No, but a dedication built out of devotion.
However, those two reserved days have become endangered. Because of the COVID-19 virus, we Christians cannot attend our weekly church activities. While the absence of Wednesday night supper and lessons and choir rehearsal is not crucial, not attending Sunday School and worship presents the danger of our losing Sunday as the most important day of the week. Because of the virus, worshipers of all religions and faiths have been forced out of their prescribed path and must adjust to the new circumstances.
Adjust. That is what any coach or athlete will tell you is necessary when a plan goes sideways—change the way to accomplish your goal. Because of the Internet, we can worship in the somewhat the way we are accustomed to doing. Our churches and other houses of worship “live-stream” services or even use drive-in movie theatres as places of worship. I applaud all those creative means of worship during these days.
However, I fear that if we are not careful, we may lose the distinctiveness of our worship days. If we become too lax in our “attendance” to worship service by not setting aside our day of worship, whether it is Sunday or some other day, it will become “just another day.” For instance, just because I watch our pastor share his message on my laptop does not excuse me from following him in my own Bible as he reads and refers to Scripture. As a member of his flock, I owe him a seriousness of attention that, while made more difficult by the circumstances, is still up to me to give.
In reading all the exact directions given to Moses, I do not read him complaining. In the wilderness, he is to have the dimensions of the Temple exact. Textures just so. Colors correct. On and on, all for a reason. We are now in a wilderness of sorts, but we should work to maintain a seriousness of worship for that one day, to not allow our day of worship to become “just one other day.”