Weekly Update - May 21
OUR REGATHERING PLANS
In anticipation of regathering soon, we want to ask each of you to provide some feedback for us as to your preferences, expectations, and comfort-level in regard to regathering. This evening, our members will be receiving an email with a link that will allow you to fill out a form that will greatly assist us in solidifying our plans for regathering. Please take a brief moment to fill it out when you receive it through the weekend. Our staff will be evaluating the responses, preparing a report for the elders that will assist us with the many details involved in regathering.
This is the question on everyone’s minds. While we have a target date in mind, we are awaiting details from Jackson county as to whether they will move to Phase 2 of the reopening plans and what that will consist of. Even if the county chooses not move to Phase 2, we are making specific plans to accommodate meeting together under the current restrictions. Please know the staff and elders are as eager as the most eager to regather. We deeply miss the fellowship of God’s people together. As we think through the practical and biblical issues involved, we are prayerfully navigating many challenging implications.
Issues related to physical distancing, seating in the sanctuary, use of the foyer, restrooms, fellowship hall, entrances, greeters, ushers, music, musicians, parking, offering, the Lord’s Supper, bulletins, content of the service, use of video in other rooms, video for those who cannot attend, and several more issues are all being planned for now, with the aim of meeting again soon. Please pray for all who are involved in these conversations.
For this Sunday, May 24, we will continue with our video sermon and in-home worship suggestions. Be looking for communication early next week in regard to specifics regarding regathering in the very near future.
OUR REGATHERING EMPHASIS
One issue pressing on our minds is the vast variety of preferences and convictions, feelings, and thoughts we all have about what we have been going through, where we are presently, and what is best in moving forward. Thankfully, we are not left to ourselves to determine how we are to think about applying our convictions and preferences with others in our congregation who may think and feel differently. On one extreme side are those who feel very strongly that the current restrictions we are facing need to be immediately lifted, if not outrightly ignored. Another extreme is so fearful of exposure to the virus, they believe society is moving too quickly and dangerously in the attempts to reopen. What is vital for both extremes and all in between is not how to exercise your rights, pursue your convictions, or apply your preferences. What is vital for all of us is how will we obey God’s word in the way we treat each other despite our preferences and convictions. In fact, we have a choice. Will we be known for our rights and freedoms (even those spelled out in the Scripture); will we be known for our fears (even rational concerns); will we be known for our humble unity with one another that is more fixed on what exalts Christ and his word?
Ephesians 4:1-6 must be the unified expression from our hearts, toward each other, regardless of what our personal feelings, thoughts, convictions, and/or preferences are about our current situation.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
What is more important, even than our physical regathering, is our spiritual fellowship through the gospel. Our unity as a single body of Christ, is of chief concern to God, and should therefore be ours as well. We need to think carefully about how we are apply Ephesians 4 with each other.
And the primary way to pursue such unity is through a kind of humility that prefers the good of another above our own personal preferences and convictions. We should all be resolutely fearless when fearlessness is called for. But what is better than being fearless? Being Christian. Consider Philippians 2:1-9 carefully.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
We are called to express selflessness, humility, and regard someone other than ourselves (likely someone who does not share our present confidence) more important than ourselves. In fact, the very reason you and I are saved is because Christ willingly surrendered the free exercise of his own privileges in the most humiliating of ways in order to accomplish what would be eternally best for us. And God exalted him with the highest possible exaltation as a result.
As we think through the details of our potential differences with one another, especially as we consider our regathering, let’s make sure that the portrait we display is that of our self-sacrificing savior – that’s what we are called to display as Christians. Let’s make sure that we are publicly known more for our citizenship in heaven governed by the document of the written revelation of God in the Scriptures than we are as citizens of any other kingdom governed by any other document.