Good Lord’s Day morning!
Today is our fourth Sunday of worship by ourselves from our Smoky Mountain retreat. The local church where we normally worship in Cosby and where I preach when we visit, is not meeting during this current crisis.
Like many of you, we’re participating in a virtual worship service. We’ve visited Temple Terrace and Henderson Boulevard in Tampa as well as the Kettering church in Ohio. Virtually speaking
This type of worship would not have been possible the first time Norma Jean and I visited the Smoky Mountains on our honeymoon in August of 1968. Think how much the world has changed technologically since then. There were no facebook podcasts. No live streaming. No Webex. No Zoom. There would be no internet until 15 years later.
So, the ability to connect with our brothers and sisters in what we’re calling virtual worship is a tremendous blessing.
However, there’s a flip side of this coin to consider. My friend and preaching colleague, Ralph Walker, recently shared with me a message that he sent to his church family on virtual worship.
Ralph asked his granddaughter Claire, who’s studying Latin, to research the entomology of the word virtual. Claire’s discovery led to these observations by my beloved brother.
Vir is Latin for man. The extension virtue means to exemplify the best qualities of man. Virtue is moral excellence. Virtutem is moral strength, high character, valor, manliness. So, virtue is almost all that man is, but can’t quite claim to be wholly man.
When we say something is virtually true, we are indicating it is almost perfectly, completely and for all intents and purposes, as effectively true as truth itself, but not quite essentially truth.
In other words, virtual as used regarding the internet world means something is a reflection of the reality, but it isn’t as complete as the real thing.
As a tangent, virus and virulent come from the same root, meaning “to influence, or exert power” on something. Don’t you find it paradoxical that this virus has helped create and produce so much virtual worship?
Ralph’s point is powerful.
“Virtual “anything” means it is like the real thing, but not exactly, not completely. A virtual reality fools you into thinking you’re experiencing something you really aren’t.”
While we’re blessed to have access to worship services and hear lessons from men like Ralph Walker, Don Truex, Jonathan Banning and Matt Allen, it’s not the same as being there.
I would rather be crowded into the Henderson Blvd building. Find a pew at TT. Or travel to Ohio to be with the Kettering Family. I would prefer being with my brothers and sisters to exchange greetings. Shake hands. Share hugs. And see their smiles. Like Ralph, I’m reminded how much I need my brethren.
Virtual worship is not the same as being there. Hearing the singing is not the same as joining your voices together in praise. You can’t replicate the atmosphere. The emotion. The fellowship. And the familial feeling that springs from heart to heart when you’re together.
We will think of many of you when we go online today. We wish you all well. Pray that you remain safe. And hope that you all remain healthy. But Lord hasten the day when this crisis is over, and I can see you all face to face.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman