“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Matthew 18:20
The gathering of people have taken a whole new meaning in the last few weeks. Physical and social distancing is in vogue. Contact with, and gathering together with people like we have been used to, is now largely forbidden. Socializing; work and play have all moved online. The church is not immune to this. Church meetings no longer hold in our fancy cathedrals and lowly tents. We now meet online in these extraordinary times.
This reminds me of a time long ago, when for several reasons (some of which we can not say were laudable), the Pharisees (a leading religious sect of ancient Jewish religion) were contemplating an alternative to the Temple as a meeting place for God’s people. That is, the Pharisees wanted somewhere else where the people of God can meet with Him and with one another besides the Temple. The Temple was believed to be the ‘house’ of God; the most holy place where God’s Shekinah-glory (tangible and heavy manifest presence) dwells. However for some reasons, the Pharisees wanted an alternative where God’s people can meet with Him. They suggested that where two or three people gather around God’s Torah (that is, the books containing God’s law to the Jewish nation), there is God’s Shekinah-glory with them. For this reason a number of the Jewish people were confident that God’s tangible presence was with them in synagogues scattered abroad when they gather around the Torah.
It was around this period that Jesus made a similar statement to that of the Pharisees. However, instead of saying like the Pharisees; that where two or three people gather around God’s Torah there is God’s Shekinah-glory with them, He said; where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them. Very bold, right? Jesus puts His name in place of the Torah (God’s law) and beyond that, He pitched the gathering of people in His Name as the real alternative to Temple meetings and worship.
In addition to these, Jesus promised that His presence is “in the midst of them”. That is, our Lord vowed that wherever two or more people meet in His Name, He is tangibly present and right there with them automatically. He does not need an extra invitation. He’s right there, He just needs to be acknowledged and welcomed. He is not just with us when we meet in His name as His Church, He is in the midst of us. To be in the midst of us is to be like a light bulb hanging on the wall but whose radiance is in the midst of the whole room. Or like a beautiful flower in the garden, but whose fragrance is in the midst of the whole garden!
What does this have to do with the church in the days of social and physical distancing? This truth is relevant because our meetings and fellowship is now entirely online. The online meetings is the new alternative to our usual physical meetings and holy spirit branded fellowship in our church buildings. However Jesus promised (I like to say He vowed) that wherever; whether in our church buildings or on Zoom, Facebook or Instagram Live, He is there in our midst and strong among us. Jesus is in our midst in our online meetings as much as in our physical meetings in our buildings. He does not need a special invitation, He just needs to be acknowledged. He could be an extra listener/attendee in our Zoom meetings, but beyond that, He is in our rooms; by our desks and in our private places as we all as individuals separated by physical distance come together to fellowship in the Spirit online.
Christ is everywhere among us saturating the atmosphere like a lovely perfume. He is not just an extra passive participant and listening ear in our online meetings, He is our Shammah: the God that is there! He is in the midst of us like the red dye is in the midst of the red cloth. Don’t just remember this as you fellowship with the saints online, let’s celebrate this as well!