– Heb. 10:19-20
Under the overcast, grey sky, a chilly wind blew across the John’s River. The water, a fluid tepid green, like the lifeblood of the forest, flowed past our church’s parking lot. We were setting up for another “Parking Lot Preaching,” at Rocky Springs Baptist Church. Yet, another one of the new “normals” since the start of the lock-down of social distancing by our State government. Each Sunday since the beginning of this COVID-19 crackdown on social gathering, we have had our church services outside. No two times are ever the same.
On the mountainside across from where we stood, the trees were now all springing for the fresh greenery of new leaves. This past month, we’ve been blessed to watch the progression of seasons unfold. As Pastor Joe speaks, my eyes wander through the forest across the narrow body of water. Like the many passages of scripture, each limb, root, and leaf reveal another mystery yet to unfold. Slowly, like the buds giving way to leaves, our outside church has evolved, becoming better each week. Below the fauna, under the shadows of the overhanging undergrowth, a momma wild duck and her brood of ducklings floated past. The signs of spring were showing their bountiful glory even within the unprecedented times in which we were living.
Regardless of what mankind was experiencing, the earth was returning to life.
I awoke this past Sunday morning with the feeling that our outdoor services were like a string of Easter Sunrise services. Typically, once a year, to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, congregations shed the walls of their church for that of an outdoor sanctuary. Once churches were allowed to provide the safe-distancing option of staying in their cars during preaching, we’ve been hosting the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services out-of-doors, under the open sky in our parking lot that adjoins the scenic John’s River in Collettsville, NC. Although we’re not hosting the services at dawn, there is always the nostalgic feeling of those pre-dawn preparations for when we did. Probably more than anything, one gets a sense of worshipping God within the element of his creation, the earth. To feel the chill of the crisp morning air upon your countenance brings an absolute reality to the message. The physicalness of holding the page of your Bible down, lest the wind, like a silent hand, turn it for you, reminds us that we are not alone. “The wind bloweth where it may, yet we cannot tell from whence it came, neither where it goeth.”
As we live in the flesh, we experience life through our terrestrial being. We are only capable of understanding what we have seen or learned through what limited abilities with which we are born. To know any more than that requires intellect. Even when Nicodemus inquired to Jesus under the cover darkness how these things could be, Jesus replied with, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” 
It is our innate mental capacity that allows the Holy Spirit to dwell within our human spirit. It is within this spiritual realm that we rise above all other God’s creations. It is because of our ability to read the message given over 2,000 years ago, and through it, that we may receive the divine Spirit of God. When we find ourselves removed from the man-made structures in which we usually spend our Sunday mornings, we are then brought closer to the rest of our Creators magnificent works. Like those meals cooked over the open fire, food seems to always taste better prepared outside. Likewise, the bread of life when received out of doors is more delectable than honey. Yes, the Word of God takes on a whole new perspective when one worships under the canopy of clear blue skies rather than a painted ceiling.
The actor, Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus of Nazareth in the YouTube TV series, “The Chosen,” was interviewed about his role and how it affected him as a person. He replied that although he felt comfortable acting the part of the “human side” of Christ, that it was far beyond his abilities to convey the divine side of Jesus. Roumie said that he did his best to fulfill what he perceived of Christ’s human actions, but left it up to God to work through him to allow the viewers to see God through his character. In other words, Roumie could take care of the physical nature of his role of Jesus, but knew it was beyond him to act out what God was doing through the real Jesus Christ; that was up to the Holy Spirit.
Similarly, it was through the death of Christ in the flesh, which took away the curse of Adam upon the world. Through the blood of Christ, the door was opened once again for all of God’s children. Because of the sacrificial lamb upon the cross, we can with, “boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;”
It was because of Christ’s flesh that we were saved, and it is through our flesh that we experience the temptations to sin. The irony is purely God. When we receive salvation, we are made anew, and we no longer seek those fleshly rewards. When we are changed, we are then more capable of connecting to God’s earthly creation, and to His living word. When we have received Christ into our lives, we can see God’s handiwork more readily, and because of it, we see with new eyes. When you see with open eyes, the world in which we live changes. The colors of the flowers seem brighter, the sounds of the forest birds more animated, and the sunsets appear more grandeur. In some small way, we get a tiny glimpse of heaven on earth.
While we face challenging times like never before, we must know that God has a purpose in everything.
Embrace that new normal and let God open your eyes to those things which we have taken for granted too long. Seek, and ye shall find Him, knock, and the door shall be opened. Enjoy those outdoor services while you still can and look upon them with a renewed appreciation.
May each day be another sunrise upon the empty tomb.
Rejoice because He lives.
Thanks be to God.
 John 3:10-12 KJV