June 14, 2020
You all, it’s so good to see you and I’m so glad you’re here.
I want to say thank you to you all for your patience and graciousness with us as a session as we have tried to assess when and where and how to start in person Sunday worship up again. I think I speak on behalf of our session in saying that out of the health and safety of our entire congregation, if we had to lean one way or another we wanted to be too slow rather than too fast when it came to starting Sunday worship back up again. So thank you for your patience and support throughout this time.
This morning, rather than diving in and focusing mostly on the scripture we just read, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections with you, a few things that I’ve been thinking about over these past few months, these past three months that we’ve been unable to worship together in person.
And yes, that’s right, it’s been three months since we’ve last gathered together - our last Sunday together in the sanctuary was March 8thand we’ve been on the radio for the last 12 weeks. March 8thwas roughly 100 days ago. It was still officially winter when we last met, although maybe that much hasn’t changed, as truth be told it feels like winter is trying to make a comeback this morning.
Over these last few months, I’ve tried to encourage us to see the positives in all of this wherever we can. And one of my hopes and prayers for our church is that during this extended season away, that it’s given us a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation for Sunday morning worship, and of course, specifically worshipping together in person. Or maybe another way to put it is that hopefully this time apart has helped us more clearly see the value of worshipping together in person and that it’s created a deeper longing within us for worshipping together. One of the things that has become so very clear to me is no matter the technology, the experience of seeing one another, being physically present with one another, of worshipping together in person cannot be fully recreated through a radio or through a screen.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful that we were still able to worship together over the radio. I’m so grateful that that option was made available to us. But yet, you and I both know, it’s just not the same as worshipping together in person.
One of the things that was interesting to track and make note of these last few months was how people’s thoughts regarding the radio service shifted over time. What people thought of the radio from say, the first couple weeks we did it, verses the last couple weeks.
I remember the first Sunday we were on the radio. It was kind of fun. It was this novelty. And I remember that first Sunday we were on the radio, shortly afterwards, a bunch of text messages came in. People were like, ‘I heard you on the radio this morning, this is so cool!” Lots of those kinds of texts.
And yet 12 weeks later, I don’t get those texts anymore. I just don’t. The novelty has worn off. I’ve had conversations with people where they’ve lamented and commented on how “worship on the radio just doesn’t do it for them, how it’s just not the same.”
And as the weeks went on, and as I heard those kinds of comments, as I received fewer and fewer texts, a part of me began to feel discouraged or a little deflated.
But then it dawned on me – not only is it understandable to have those feelings, even more, I began to realize, that it’s good and right to feel that way. In fact, in reality, I’m glad you feel that way, as you have reminded me and highlighted to me just how unique and special and necessary the physical Sunday morning gathering, the in person worship experience really is. Truth is, a radio or a screen, while good, just can’t replace the real thing.
So all this to say, my hope and prayer is that all of us have a greater sense of appreciation, a deeper sense of gratitude for worshipping together on Sunday mornings. You all, do you value and cherish what we have together on Sunday mornings more today than you did on March 8th? I hope and pray that you do. So here briefly are four quick takeaways, I promise these will be short and sweet:
Remember this feeling.
Remember this feeling that you had over these past three months of wanting to worship with your people on Sunday mornings. And specifically remind yourself of this feeling on a future Sunday morning when you don’t want to go to church. Where you don’t want to get out of bed, or you don’t want to have to get ready. When you have that moment, and trust me, that moment will come, it’ll come for all of us, remember how you felt these last few months. When you think to yourself, ‘No big deal, we’ll go next week” remind yourself of these last 12 weeks where you had nowhere to go. Remember this feeling. That’s one of my big takeaways these last 12 weeks – I hope I never take Sunday worship for granted again.
Remember that convenience is overrated.
Remind yourself that convenience is overrated and that sometimes the best things in life are a bit inconvenient. One of the benefits of worshipping together over the radio was just how wonderfully convenient it is. You can simply roll out of bed. No need to get dressed or put on makeup or take a shower or wrestle the kids into the car. You can simply turn up the volume, sip on a cup of coffee, cook breakfast in the kitchen as you listen. It’s all so wonderfully convenient. But yet, the very fact that we’re tired of the radio tells us that convenience is overrated. And the very fact that you all are here – outside, in the cold and wind and rain – it’s a reminder that you all know that convenience is overrated. And so it’s all a reminder that sometimes we need to push through our temptation to settle for convenience, and to seek out the life giving relationships and opportunities that are sometimes inconvenient and exist on the other side.
Remember that we attend worship not only for God, not only for ourselves, but also for one another.
You all, do you ever think through why you attend Sunday worship? Have you ever thought through why it’s important to you, important for you to go? My guess is that on some level we go for ourselves – we find it meaningful, encouraging, uplifting, maybe even challenging in a good way and that it helps us grow in our love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Or maybe we rightfully attend because we know this is what God wants for us and hopes for us – that he’s given us his church by his good design to strengthen us in our faith.
But have you also ever thought how we also are encouraged to attend worship for the good of one another, on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ? That we don’t simply attend because God wants us to or because we like to, but in addition because the rest of our church family needs us to.
Hebrews 10:24, “And let us continue how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
The author of Hebrews is reminding us that we have a responsibility to another, we’ve made a commitment to one another to gather together, so that we can stir up one another in love and good works and encourage one another all the more.
Think about how powerful it is to look around the room and see an elderly widow sing ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ and to think she’s been singing that song for decades now, through good times and bad. Or to see a little kid sing, ‘O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made.’ Or to see someone who is struggling in their faith or battling depression, to see them singing, ‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.’ Think about just how powerful and uplifting and encouraging all that is. Think about the wind that puts in your sails.
We attend worship not only for God, not only for ourselves, but also for one another. To encourage and strengthen and edify one another. Friends, I have missed you. Worship hasn’t been the same without you.
And this is a good moment to point out that in reality, we’re still not all here yet – there’s a significant portion of congregation that, out of their health and safety, feel that it’s best that they still not worship in person quite yet. I miss them. And I know you do too. So in this in between season, let’s think thoughtfully about how we can stay connected with them and help them feel like they are a part of this.
Remember that we need one another to grow in our faith in Christ.
I love this prayer from Paul, this scripture that we read a few minutes ago from Ephesians 3. Paul prays that the Ephesian church would be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit, that they would experience the love of God that surpasses knowledge and that they may be filled with the fullness of God. And one of the obvious, but important features of this prayer is that Paul is praying this prayer not only for them individually as followers of Jesus, but corporately as a church. He even says in verse 18, ‘that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints.’ It’s a reminder that the only way, or at least the best way for you and I to experience the power of Spirit, the love of Christ and the fullness of God is if we do so together, with all the saints. You and I – we need one another and my hope and prayer is that these last few months have reminded us of just that.
So more specifically, here are a couple ways in which you and I can grow together in our faith in Christ.
One is through summer small groups that we’ll be starting up in a couple weeks. These will be groups that run through the summer and each group will parallel our summer sermon series. Next week, we’ll be starting a series on theFruit of the Spirit and together we’ll reflect on how we as followers of Jesus can grow in these virtues – how we can grow in our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. More info was sent in an email yesterday and I’m happy to answer more questions after the service or in the weeks to come.
Another is through Fellowship after the service. Now, to be clear, we’re not having an official Fellowship Hour after the service. We want to practice social distancing as we are able and don’t want to encourage gatherings that are in conflict with what’s being advised of us at this time. But nevertheless, by all means, create fellowship opportunities of your own, maybe hang out with another young family and kids on the playground after the service, or maybe invite a few people over to your house for lunch. Create those moments of fellowship and simply catch up with one another, and maybe even ask each other how you can be praying for them.
And lastly let’s be praying big prayers, both for one another and on behalf of our church.
For example, maybe regularly pray for each person in our church and use Paul’s prayer as a guide and in every place where Paul says ‘you’ insert that person’s name in there …
16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that John may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in John’s hearts through faith …
I love Paul’s final prayer. It’s one that I often use for a benediction.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
You all, did you hear that? God will accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, through the power at work within us. So let’s be praying big, bold prayers, that God would work in us and through us and use his church for his glory in all things. What do you hope that God will do through us, his church, over the next few months and in the year to come? Be praying for those things. Truth is, he’ll do even more than we could ask or imagine.