Our present situation is a strange time for worship and singing. If you are worshipping at home, you can sing as much and as loudly as you like (provided the people you live with are happy with that of course).
In our church buildings, however, singing is still not possible. We sit with masks on, listening to music played or performed but unable to join in. It seems strange and unnatural to us to be so restricted in our worship.
This past week our church had the opportunity to take part in a Secret Church evening. Gathering on Zoom, this was an event organised and run by Open Doors, an organisation focused on supporting the persecuted church around the world. Secret Church was designed not only to inform us about those Christians who are persecuted but also to see the connections between our current situation and that faced by so many across the globe.
One of the things that struck me the most was the way in which persecuted Christians are able to worship. A house church in a country where Christianity is outlawed cannot sing at the top of their voices. Their songs, if they are able to sing at all, might only be in a whisper. Those in prison for their faith cannot hold worship gatherings. They snatch moments with other Christians, mere minutes, even in the strangest of settings such as a stinky toilet area.
We cannot sing and worship as we would like right now. We hope and pray that this will change soon. As we go through this season it is good for us to remember Christians around the worship for whom whispered worship is the norm. We hope and pray that this will change for them too, and soon.
Worship is still worship even in a whisper. Even if no one else can hear it, it is heard by God and acceptable in his sight. We have an even fuller experience of worship to come – not when the coronavirus pandemic is over, but when we see Jesus face to face. Then even the greatest worship we experience now will seem like a whisper in comparison.
Speaking to his disciples in Luke chapter 12, Jesus explains the upside-down nature of his kingdom. He tells them:
“What you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:3)
What we whisper now, either because of a pandemic or persecution, will eventually be proclaimed. What is softly spoken or silent now will be shouted out without limits. What is restricted at present will be unrestrained in Jesus’ kingdom. Our worship is a whisper now, but one day soon it will be a roar that cannot be contained.