“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11

Virtual meetings, classrooms, worship services … we live at a time where technology can allow us to be “virtually present,” while not being “fully present.” I can attend a meeting with colleagues who are located across the state or even in another country. I can listen to a sermon a colleague posted years ago. I could probably even “attend” a church somewhere else while leading church at St. John’s.  All I need is a cell phone or tablet and an internet connection.

I’m not sure the benefits are worth the cost. That is, the same technology that enables my “virtual presence” also prevents me from being “fully present” with others. The new reality of “working remotely” has emptied office suites in urban centers across the country and left managers working to adapt. Corporations have added “engagement” and “collaboration” officers who work to help create an environment that used to be accomplished “around the water cooler,” as it were.

The challenge is that God created us to be in “community.” Adam required a helper. God’s people were gathered together into families and tribes. While God is omnipresent (present everywhere and always); in Jesus, God chooses to be fully present with humanity: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Incarnation = fully present. Not that God was without options. The scriptures include many stories of God’s various means of “presence.”  A burning bush (Moses in the wilderness, Exodus 3), clouds on top of a mountain (Mt. Sinai, Exodus 19), and even a whisper (Elijah, 1 Kings 19). The good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ does not come in the myriad of possibilities concerning God’s work. The good news arrives in the person and work of Jesus the Christ.


We are similarly called by God to be fully present. The church does not accomplish its mission through a myriad of possibilities. The good news of God’s love arrives through the waters of Holy Baptism, in a visit with someone in need, in a conversation with a sister in Christ about the challenges they face, through the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper

The real presence is a foundational idea Lutheran theology, especially with regard to the Lord’s Supper. I propose that we need to apply that also to our life together as God’s people. We must be “really present” with one another. While we can watch a worship service online, sisters and brothers in Christ work to be in worship together. While we can help others with our gifts, Christians are called to live in community with others, to be present for others.