Coffee in hand, Leslie and I took a pleasant walk through our neighborhood this past Monday. And wow, it was such a beautiful evening! The cool, refreshing breeze enlivened me after a day of meetings and decisions. The choir of birds sang a peaceful anthem. The green leaves and azalea blooms pointed toward the birth of spring. The clear sunset reminded me the name of the Lord is to be praised (Psalm 113:3). And did I mention I got to commune with my wife as we walked together?
But as sweet as the evening was, we both knew that a dark, viral cloud hung over us and our neighbors. The continual closures and governmental recommendations had kept coming throughout the day, and the lengthy interruption of our lifestyles/schedules became apparent. It seemed surreal that our remote neighborhood which bore creation’s elaborate décor would be threatened by a disease that had literally traveled across the globe. But such was reality!
My friends, it has been said that we are in an unprecedented time; and in many ways, we are. Even during wars and economic pains, churches gathered physically. Governments even encouraged such moments. Of course, events such as “ice storms” and hurricanes have prevented face-to-face meetings for a Sunday or two, but this crisis has taken a greater toll on our physical interactions. For me personally, I am pained not to be able to interact with you through physical worship gatherings. There is nothing like the people of God coming together as a people. However, at this time, we must find new ways to serve/worship together. Why? First and foremost, the leadership and I love this church and this community. No matter what our opinions, government leaders and medical experts tell us that this virus is dangerous, especially to the elderly and to those with compromised medical situations. Physical gatherings present health risks to the church and to our community . . . period! And while I personally would assume the risk for myself and for my family, I do not believe that I need to place others at risk. What kind of testimony would we have if we are part of the problem in spreading this virus to others around us? For me, not meeting physically right now actually communicates our love for our neighbor . . . our concern and compassion for those most vulnerable. Of course, I always want to honor our governmental authorities (Romans 13). Our President, our Governor, and other elected officials have asked us not to gather in significant groups for this specific timeframe. They are not forbidding us to worship nor are they trying to quell our prayers. Instead, they have even encouraged people of faith to intervene in spiritual power!
So, what can we do? We can be the church wherever we are! Remember that! You are the church! Check on your neighbor. Call a senior adult whom you know and offer to pick up groceries for them. See if a family with children needs help while school is out. Just love people! (By the way, if you do need something, call the Church Office or text NEEDS to 97000.) And what’s more, tell others about the Hope you have within. I’m not sure if there has ever been a time within my life where people have talked more about life and even death. Remind them that Jesus has authority over life and death! Tell them He is hope!
I also want to encourage you to be about the spiritual disciplines. Utilize this extra time to worship personally; read the Scripture, meditate on His Word, pray fervently, etc. We will continue to offer online opportunities. Our live online worship gathering will be at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings until further notice. If you need some tech support, please let us know. In addition, I plan to offer some brief Wednesday night Bible studies and some words of encouragement from time to time on social media. Thanks to Bill Brown, I will present my Sunday morning sermon on the radio KRLQ 94.1 at 9:30 a.m. (also broadcast on Ruston’s Suddenlink, Channel 20). Or you can always find the previous week’s service on television Sunday at 9 a.m. on Channel 11 (KAQY).
While these are unprecedented times in some ways, they aren’t in other ways. Living in a fallen world, believers have always faced challenges and pain. Some seventy-two years ago, C. S. Lewis underscored that reality when he was asked about the anxiety people had concerning the atomic bomb: “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age? ’I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’” In other words, our situation is not novel. The consequences of our collective sin are all around us every day. We simply must continue to trust in Christ as the Savior and Victor. We can and must make wise decisions, but our faith must always be grounded in Him! Never forget that! And never doubt how much I love and miss seeing you as a congregation together! But our God is good, and He will redeem these moments to transform lives! Believe it!