Our local church is worshipping in the sanctuary again! At the start of the pandemic, we worshipped using Zoom. Our congregation raised funds for new audio/visual equipment. During installation, other needed repairs had to be performed which further delayed worship in the sanctuary. Pews were refinished, new flooring installed, walls painted, and the organ was cleaned. What began as a technical installation turned into a major refurbishment with higher expenses.
Last Sunday, I was scheduled for my yearly flu shot and due to Covid, it was performed by a drive-through clinic that was fast and efficient. In five minutes, I received my injection and was driving back home. I decided not to attend worship services in-person and made it home in time to connect into sanctuary worship via the new technical equipment.
After the services went live, there were numerous technical problems. Microphones did not work and needed to be exchanged. The camera had difficulty tracking the different speakers. The most annoying problem was screen freezes throughout the sermon. By the time our minister finished, I understood the basic concepts of his sermon message. However, most of the content was absent. His delivery and theology might have been outstanding, but it was absent to the screen viewers.
I am sure that our church’s technical glitches will be fixed, but I should have attended in-person. If I had physically attended, there would not have been technical problems since I would have heard him even without microphones. My concentration improves in a physical setting, and when I sing, I am surrounded by other voices. I can greet friends and have conversations after the service. In short, I feel part of a community rather than alone with my screen.
Rev. Dr. Donald R. Heiges (1910–1990), the former President of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, wrote The Christian’s Calling (Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1958). In the New Testament, “the whole life of the Christian becomes, therefore, part and parcel of his vocation under God. … A Christian’s life is rooted and grounded in the life of the community of believers. First of all, then, his vocation has certain implications for his relationships within the community.” (page 40)
Most people think of vocation as a job, occupation, or career. Vocation can include work, but it is so much more than what one does to earn money. “Vocation gives meaning, significance to all of life, including labor. … Vocation is the level of meaning created by the initiative and action of God himself.” (page 5) Vocation is the totality of a person’s life and it is to be lived with purpose.
Vocation begins when one answers God’s call of faith in Jesus Christ. When a person is called, there must be a caller who calls individuals into Christian community. “According to the Scriptures, vocation is basically corporate. God calls a people. In the Old Testament this people, this community is Israel; in the New Testament, this people, this community is the church. The corporate vocation of the people of God is the context within which an individual is called, has a vocation.” (page 21) Vocation is more than individualistic, it is communal.
“No man has a vocation in the world unless he has a vocation in the church.” (page 76) Church is where Christians worship, pray, disciple, and serve. It is composed of faithful individuals who are communal. Sitting alone looking at a worship service on a computer screen is better than not worshipping, but far less communal than attending in-person. The pandemic forced Christians to stay home but, in my opinion, it is not a permanent solution for those able to attend in-person. High tech will never triumph over the real thing!
A friend told me many years ago that he was a Christian but would not attend church. He believed that the church was corrupt. I asked him how he grew in his faith. He replied, “I don’t. I just believe.” The only reason we had this discussion was because I told him I was writing a book about faith and work. Until this discussion, I assumed from his life choices that he wasn’t Christian. Faith is the first and important step. Becoming Christ-like through actions and choices must quickly follow. Faith grows because Christians live their vocation within a church community.