November 29, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session

When Your Lip Starts to Quiver
Revelation 4:1-11

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This week’s study offers us a vision of ecstatic worship as the 24 elders cast down their crowns before the throne. singing “You are worthy . . .” (Revelation 4:10-11). Singing together. It is what I miss most these days now that our worship services are held online rather than in person. Often the part of a worship service that feels like worship is the singing.

It is likely to be quite some time before we go back to singing together. Many congregations that had hoped to safely resume in-person, indoor worship as the temperatures drop have found that gathering in large groups for worship now seems unwise. Those who do meet in person are encouraged not to sing together since singing has been identified as a huge driver of virus transmission.

According to The New York Times “Coronavirus Briefing,” case numbers are spiking, leading to predictions of full hospitals, exhausted health workers, and expanding lockdowns. As of November 20, more than 11,990,800 people in the United States have been infected and at least 254,200 have died. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that this current surge in cases is different from past waves because of the steepness of the curve. “It’s almost an exponential curve,” says Fauci. “I think that December, January, and early February are going to be terribly painful months.”[1]

On this first Sunday of Advent, when we anticipate worship services to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we understand that we cannot resume our traditional Christmas pageants, our Christmas caroling, our Longest Night and Christmas Eve services. But we can worship.

In the MennoMedia video for last week’s Salt and Light study, Jake Lee offered a beautiful, concise description of worship, “Worship is our opportunity to refocus our lives on the God who raised Jesus from the dead. . . . Worship is reorientation.”

We can take this opportunity to explore more contemplative styles of worship. The boisterous scene that John describes in Revelation 4 would not be safe in a pandemic. No social distancing is possible while gathering around God’s throne! And too many aerosols are released while singing. Wait—those problems do not exist in heaven. But notice that John is imagining this worship during his solitary silence. John is in exile on the island of Patmos. He is presumably alone in a trance or dream state as he experiences this vision. This too is worship.

  • Do you think this state of deep contemplation in God’s presence from which John experiences his prophetic vision is a style of worship that is appropriate for this Advent season? Is it possible?

—Gwen Groff,
Many thanks to Gwen Groff for pointing us to real-time applications of this quarter’s Bible study!

© 2020

1. Jonathan Wolfe and Adam Pasick, “Coronavirus Briefing,” The New York Times, November 20, 2020.

Resources for this session

Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

Join us for the S&L Winter study, In God’s Image

Andrew Bodden is our Salt & Light Online writer. He is a program director with Mennonite Central Committee East Coast.

Moses Falco, José Luis Moraga, and Marnie Klassen are the presenters for Salt & Light Videos.

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