As our regular services and programs are disrupted, and we practice social distancing to help our government leaders and healthcare system get control over the spread of this virus, we are reminded that God made us as social beings, and that our church is more than just a series of programs, but we are a community. We are a group of people who care about each other and enjoy staying connected with one another.
I want to offer us as a church a few reminders in the face of our current situation, and leave us with a challenge that I’m hoping y’all will participate in.
Reminder #1: Stillness and Contemplation are Christian Disciplines
On March 15, 2020 I preached about Mary, and the way she pondered things in her heart (Luke 2:19). We talked about the value of contemplation and meditation, which are spiritual disciplines. (If you missed the service, you can listen to the message online by clicking here.)
Psalm 46:10-11 (NLT) says, “‘Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.’ The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.”
As we spend more time in our homes, this is an excellent opportunity to be still before the Lord, to read, and to meditate on God’s Word.
Reminder #2: Let us learn to be content
1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”
Many of us have disruptions in our schedule; kids at home instead of in school, vacations and activities cancelled, social events being cancelled, and even our church’s activities greatly reduced. But this won’t last forever. We will get through this time and so for the time being we have the opportunity to practice what we preach, and to practice contentment.
In the season of Lent that we find ourselves, we remember how much Christ sacrificed for us. So each time you start to feel discontent, take that as your cue to choose to think about how much Jesus gave up for us. In the face of that comparison, our troubles begin to seem so small.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul tells us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Reminder #3: Obeying our earthly authorities can honour God
We as a church belong to the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, who has historically faced situations where we have not conformed to earthly rulers—when we have been sent to war, we stood with the words of Jesus that told us to love our enemies, and became conscientious objectors.
Coming from a background of non-conformity, it can be easy for us to assume postures that are instinctively in opposition to our government leaders. Yet in this case Christians are not being singled out and asked to stop worshipping. No, we are simply being asked to postpone our public gatherings. Surely, my brothers and sisters, you have learned enough from me by now to understand that our worship is more than just our Sunday services. While it pains me to not see you as regularly for a little while, our worship of God is much more than simply a service or a program, but includes our actions and how we love our neighbours. This is not a situation where the government is persecuting, but rather one where they are protecting. They are not curtailing our freedom in Christ, only containing a nasty virus.
Romans 13:1-2 says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
While there are times for protest, or civil disobedience against unjust laws, etc., I believe this is an instance where we ought to submit to our government, as this isn’t something that goes against the fabric of our faith. In fact I believe it goes along with our faith. We are being asked to sacrifice gathering with others for a time to help prevent the spread of disease in our community. While it might not be “flashy” or “cool”, but as we submit ourselves to the mandate of social distancing, we can do so out of reverence for Christ, and even as an act of worship of our God, and love of our neighbours.
Reminder #4: Our faith should translate into action.
James 2:17b says, “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
Our relationship with God is what inspires us to act in this world. We are told by Jesus that the greatest command is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbours. So what does that look like right now with the threat of this virus in our communities?
Right now the best way we can love our neighbours and prevent them from getting sick is to keep to ourselves. Imagine a news headline that reads, “Christians ignore health warnings; causes entire communities to get sick with rising fatalities”. This would not be a witness that communicates love and care to the world around us.
Of course we can and should pray for our neighbours, we can still donate to charity, we can send emails and make phone calls. We can send messages on What’s App or Facebook or other social media to encourage our friends. There is much that we can do, even while we keep to ourselves for awhile. This brings me to a challenge for you.
While we will be posting sermons online instead having services in person, and while many other events have been cancelled or postponed, we are still a community, and I know we all still care for one another.
To try and foster a sense of community even while we spend more time apart, I want to challenge you to remember a Bible verse that helped bring you God’s peace during a time of uncertainty. Then, I want to ask you to record a short video of you (and maybe even your family), reading the verse and explain why it speaks to you.
Please don’t vent your frustrations or rant about politics, but rather just take a few moments to help us all encourage each other in the Lord, and build each other up.
Once you have made your video, please submit it to our church’s What’s App group—or if you don’t attend our church, feel free to take part by posting it to a different social media account.
My friends, may God grant you much grace and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(P.S. You can see our family’s video below.)