I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord’. Ps. 122:1
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, July 15th, 2020
As we plod along on this modified way of life, I came to think about the people of Israel, enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. How did they maintain community and faith then? It’s not like I have or need the answers; it’s more considering the challenges they faced. Then, when we consider their relief and release following the original Passover, the challenge to maintaining faith and community didn’t get any easier. We know, in hindsight, they could have had a ‘shorter’ route and journey to the Promised Land. That didn’t happen and their journey went from a ‘sprint’ to a marathon. Again, I thought about how did they maintained their faith and community along the way.
Obviously the Israelites knew the presence of the Lord went before them; the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. That must have helped – a lot! But it didn’t stop their grumbling, doubts and challenges to leadership and progress. In due course they did get encouragement (as well as explicit plans) for a tent of meeting; which they then had to lug around with them when God led them on. Their sense of community, faith and purpose evolved over the forty years in the wilderness. It must have come as a great relief to the survivors of that trek to reach the Promised Land and finally ‘settle’. Yet once again they were faced with another reshaping of the community and different challenge to maintain their faith and acknowledge the presence of God. Eventually this culminated in building a temple as well as their local gathering in local synagogues.
Needless to say, this pattern of defining community and an expression of faith has continued throughout the life of the Christian church. The New Testament is a wonderful record of the earliest church and how it formed community, sustained faith and developed an expression of worship. We know from history and archeological excavations of catacombs, caves and hermitages; of the efforts of early missionaries to form monastic communities, plant churches and draw people into more formal gatherings. All the while wars and conquests, plagues and even schism within the church itself played out over the years. And still some persevered and pursued the gathering of community and sought an expression of their faith in God.
Throughout all those times and into the present, some have ‘carried’ the promise of the very presence of God with them and found ways to express that with others, however few might be able to gather. Even in our life time the ‘underground’ church, just like in earlier times, has persisted, often under the most awful threats and persecution. It has sought to maintain faith in the full revelation of our God - and build up and encourage one another. We have indeed been blessed in living memory with an established church, a rich heritage of tradition and the witness of those who have gone before us – the cloud of witnesses.
Perhaps all this is to say Church attendance is, and has always been a privilege. We know that some people cannot attend because of physical limitations and for other legitimate reasons. But those who can be in church should be – except during a pandemic. (Consider those at sea, in remote locations such as weather stations, the coastguards, even those held in detention – like the two Michaels in China right now.) The singing, the prayers, the fellowship, the reading and teaching from God’s Word are just what we need for this and every week. So we can pray even as we presently are, dispersed; and we can pray for a return to safer times when we can to continue the journey in closer proximity with one another. However, in all of this, we are always in God’s presence and love. That is are greatest blessing, now and always.
Consider this: Some years ago now, the Nashville Banner reported that 81 year old Ella Craig had perfect attendance in Sunday school for 20 years. That’s 1040 Sundays! (But who‘s counting?)
The article went on to raise these questions:
Doesn’t Mrs. Craig ever have company on Sundays to keep her away from church?
Doesn’t she ever have headaches, colds, nervous spells or tired feelings?
Doesn’t she ever take a weekend trip?
Doesn’t she ever sleep in late on a Sunday morning?
Doesn’t it ever rain or snow on a Sunday morning?
Doesn’t she ever get her feelings hurt by someone in church?
The article concluded by asking, “What’s the matter with Mrs. Craig?”
The answer? Nothing at all. But if we are not in church on Sundays when we can be, there is something wrong with us!
Perhaps some of you are keeping count of how many Sundays you have been kept from going to church. I don’t believe that is in God’s interest now. He is more interested in how we celebrate today, every day, in His company and enfolding love.
In His Service,
Interim priest-in charge.
Sunday after church, a Mom asked her very young daughter what the lesson was about. The daughter answered, “Don’t be scared, you’ll get your quilt.” Needless to say, the Mom was perplexed. Later in the day the pastor stopped for tea and the Mom asked him what the morning’s Sunday school lesson was about. He said, “Be not afraid, the comforter is coming.”
Remember: You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.