Brian Ming took a break Sunday morning from playing keyboards at The Road @ Chapel Hills.
“We got a crowd here today,” he said while he looked at a sanctuary scattered with worshippers. “Praise God.”
We dwell in a strange time, a time when something as basic and ordinary and precious as a crowd at a Sunday morning worship service can seem strange and unsettling. For weeks, the coronavirus emptied church buildings in Colorado Springs.
Sunday, 340 gathered at The Road to sing praises and listen to Pastor Steve Holt preach from the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Those 340 also took a risk, even though all surfaces had been scrubbed.
The coronavirus is vicious. It’s also mysterious. It strikes when people gather.
What is safe behavior?
We don’t yet know.
A few minutes into his sermon, Holt delivered a gentle command. It served as his summary of the morning.
“Take your eyes off the virus,” he said. “Put your eyes up to Him.”
Let’s make this clear: I was sitting in the back of The Road on assignment. I would have not been there as a voluntary worshipper. I was there as a reporter.
I sensed a hunger in the sanctuary. It’s a hunger I see increasing each day in Colorado Springs and the Front Range.
Last Sunday, I saw a hundred or so bikers talking and laughing in a parking lot northwest of Castle Rock. They were not practicing the art of social distancing.
On Wednesday, I saw dozens of teens talking and laughing in the parking lot at Rampart High School. They, too, were not bothering with social distancing.
Basketball courts in my neighborhood were vacant for the weeks of our stay-at-home era. Those courts were bustling last week. You can’t play basketball the right way — elbowing and bumping — and socially distance, too. Everybody on the court was playing the right way.
We again can eat at restaurants. Soon, many of us will eat burgers and pizza and pad Thai in a dining room that is not our home dining room.
Holt opened the service by announcing restaurants had been given permission to reopen in El Paso County. The congregants responded with joyous applause.
“Go find a restaurant and go eat,” Holt said. “Let’s fill those restaurants. Let’s get this economy going again.”
During his sermon, Holt said, “The flag of freedom is rising again.”
In a later phone interview, Holt talked of that flag of freedom.
“I mean that America is built so much on entrepreneurship,” he said. “I always felt one of the great things about America is the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Holt took care to say he was not criticizing the stay-at-home orders.
“It was the right thing to do. No complaints there, but it’s exciting that men and women can get back to work and have that freedom again. That freedom is so embedded in who we are. We have a spiritual and entrepreneurial spirit that has always set us apart.”
That spirit could lead us to a revived economy. That spirit could lead us away from loneliness and back to our friends and family.
Or that spirit could lead us to disaster. Faith is a tricky concept. Faith inspires us to take leaps into the unknown, leaps that help us grow. But sometimes what we call faith can be more accurately described as wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking inspires us to leap into disaster. Wishful thinking leads us to ignore truth. Wishful thinking can be deadly.
I keep hearing from skeptics of the coronavirus. They say the whole thing is a hoax, that our government’s reaction has been a huge overreaction. These wishful thinkers question those who aggressively embrace social distancing. On Saturday at my local King Soopers, I pushed my cart alongside nine shoppers/skeptics/wishful thinkers who did not bother to wear a mask.
Here’s the truth: Underestimate the coronavirus at your peril and at the peril of your neighbor. The virus kills the faithless and the faithful. The virus is no respecter of persons. The virus has surprised and humbled us since its birth. It will keep surprising and humbling us.
Throngs of Americans, including many in Colorado Springs, are ready to leap into a future that includes eating at restaurants and playing basketball and raising hands and voices in praise at a worship service.
God help us.
This content was originally published here.