Last Wednesday we had our second Pop-Up Church, a concert by Bobby Jo Valentine in an empty store front in downtown Lowell. To prepare, we cleaned and swept the space, hung lights, brought in chairs and tables. We brought snacks and pizza and juice and made sure to hang our rainbow banner so that everyone would know they were welcome. We put signs in the windows and passed out postcards and wrote Pop-Up Church on the wall. And then we waited to see what would happen.
What do you think of when you hear the word “church?” How about “worship?” How about “sacred space.” I felt that sacred space began to form as soon as people began wandering in. A parent with her children. Grandparents. People we see every Sunday. Guests we know from Under the Oak. People from the bar next door who had helped us set up, people just wandering by wondering what was happening. The music spoke to us all, Ebony’s gift of song became our prayer, Bobby Jo’s words of pain and restoration became our sermon. And there we were, a new, small gathering of God’s children, worshiping together in this amazing space created for just this single night.
As I thought about the event the next morning, I thought about how many times Jesus found himself in large crowds. People followed him, applauding his words and his healing and his leadership. He had the numbers. He had the “Likes.” And what did he do? Often, in the stories we know and love, he either gave them the slip or he singled out an individual to pay attention to. “Who touched me,” he asks, in the midst of an immense jostling crowd. And we learn that a desperately ill woman, impoverished and probably scorned by her society, has reached out to touch nothing more than a piece of his clothing. And she is made well. Jesus speaks to her in the crowd and commends her faith and wishes upon her joy and peace! (Luke 8:43-48)
So I wonder about all our gatherings – Sunday morning, Wednesday evening, Church, Sacred Space. I think the question stays the same. “Who touched me.” And I think many of us were granted a touch of Jesus’ healing joy and peace as we worshiped together in an empty storefront on a mid-week evening in downtown Lowell.