When I was a little kid growing up on the south side of Chicago, there was a local show each Sunday morning titled, “Mass for Shut-Ins.” Granted, most of the time our family attended church, but sometimes, when we missed, I would be channel surfing through the 5 channels we received (CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN and PBS). I think WGN broadcast the weekly show but since we weren’t Catholic, I didn’t pay much attention to it; however, I wondered why anyone would want to broadcast church on television.
The show covered the entire mass from beginning to end and it was really my first exposure to Catholicism. I didn’t understand the Latin parts and the service was so much different than our Methodist service that it didn’t resonate with me. I guess I should say that I grew up in a rather deeply divided neighborhood when it came to religion. You were either Catholic or you weren’t and most of the Catholic kids went to St. Barnabas while those of us who didn’t attend the private school attended Sutherland Elementary School on S. Leavitt Avenue.
And you never would cross over to the other side – kind of like Democrats and Republicans during the Trump administration. Tempers ran high and, to a large degree, it was the parents who got amped up more than the kids. The children all hung around together and we did have Catholic kids who attended Sutherland if their parents didn’t send them down the street to St. Barnabas.
But the point of all this is that the Catholic Church actually put their service out there for the entire community to watch. I remember that I always wondered how exciting it could possibly be to just watch the service. It couldn’t be anything like being there in person and the only folks who would watch must be really sick and unable to get to church. To be truthful, I thought the use of the term “shut-ins” wasn’t very nice and I certainly never envisioned myself ever being old enough or sick enough to be considered a “shut-in.”
Until this summer… With the healing of Janet’s shoulder earlier this past winter and spring, then the colds, coughs and sore throats we both experienced, Janet and I have attended church almost without fail until the last several weeks. And we rarely miss… church is a very high priority for us and for the most part, we attend services on Saturday evening at 4:30 pm. Then, we head out to dinner or whatever other plans we have later in the evening.
We both enjoy worship and we both feel empty if we miss a Sunday worshipping the Lord. But, things built up to a point that we just couldn’t make it several weeks in a row. Janet wasn’t feeling well and I was still recovering from my illness. But then, I had an idea…
Recently, our church started streaming our worship on the internet. I researched the church website and learned how to stream the service into our home. So, the past two weeks, we have watched the Sunday morning service from our home. Certainly, it fell short of being in the room with thousands of other people, but it has come a long way from those days in the mid sixties watching the Catholic mass.
But one reality did hit home – Janet and I are “shut-ins.” I mean the kind of people that are either too old or too sick to go to church. I couldn’t believe the reality of it all. It’s kind of like getting older and realizing that you are turning into your parents or grandparents. Hopefully, we are only temporary shut-ins and will quickly get back to live church in person.
Watching on the internet does have some advantage, though. We haven’t miss the sermons in the current series and that weekly dose of church helps us stay connected in some way to our church family. We get the announcements of what is going on and can still participate in some of the missions work that the church is engaged in.
The verse for tonight highlights that while it is great to attend church, Jesus is present among us wherever we we are. Matthew tells us, in Matt. 18:20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” In other words, Jesus is present even when Janet and I are watching from home.
My encouragement this evening is that Christ desires us to live in community and worship together. However, He understands that from time to time that just isn’t possible. My prayer tonight is that you will make every attempt to worship God in an organized service of some kind. However, when that isn’t possible, perhaps you will also look for a way to get spiritually fed through streaming a service or even searching your TV channels for some sort of worship for “shut-ins!” Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…