• Bob Brown, Pastor

Where do we go from here? I’ve thought about that the last couple of days as I’m anticipating the full reopening of our church. As that day approaches, I wonder what is going to be the same, and what is going to be different? Not just me but each of you, how have we changed during this time of isolation? For some things aren’t all that different, but for many much has changed.

Older parents have been sequestered to their homes by their adult children. Some have not ventured beyond the yard for more than a month. Children have not been to school, have not been to youth group, or Sunday School. Young adults have carried on working from home, or are at least attempting to between trying to get the kids to do their school work or toddlers constantly wanting/needing attention. Kids screaming, tv’s blasting, dogs

barking! Let me get back to the quiet sanctuary of the workplace.

We’ve become used to avoiding people. We know how to keep our distance. How’s that going to affect those who warmly want to welcome everyone after such a long absence? As you approach people are they going to back away from you? How will you react? How will you feel? What about people as they approach you? Will you step away? How’s it going to affect us as we gather in a room together again hearing one another sing and pray? Emotions will likely run high. Self-containment will be that much more difficult. And yet we know it has to be.

Will some chose not to return. They’ve perhaps decided that on-line church is pretty good. I can catch it live and at my own convenience, but the important thing is that I watch it sometime. I no longer need to get up on Sunday morning and get cleaned up and dressed up. I don’t really like to sing in front of everyone so this on-line stuff is pretty good. I suspect some will never return, I hope I’m wrong, I think I might have been once, but I’m afraid some are gone forever.

Others, I believe, are going to thrive because they understand that something has been missing. Maybe they know what it is, maybe not, but something vital in their lives has been absent these past weeks. They’re going to walk through the sanctuary doors and their hearts will be overwhelmed. And understand, it will be a mixture of joy, fear, and anxiety that hit them like a mighty rushing wind blowing them over and not knowing what is the proper way to respond. Some will shout, cry, shiver with cold chills and others perhaps will need to turn around and return home for fear of not knowing how to handle the onslaught of emotions. But we’re going to have them. As a pastor, the first time I look out and see actual people in the pews, I hope I can contain myself.

I also hope that we can realize that things are different and because of that we need to continue to think ahead. We need to not slip completely into how things were. It’s not that things were bad necessarily, but that we have changed. We’ve evolved somewhat maybe adapted is a better word, but with that, we need to continue to look forward. We made the necessary adjustments in order to try and reach out; in some areas, I think we succeeded -- in others I think we could have done better. But the point is we tried. As we move forward, and that’s the direction we want to go. I realize that we need to continue to look for ways in which we can reach out beyond these brick and mortar walls.

Because, if we've learned nothing else this past month, we've learned that the building is not the church. We are the church! And we’ve continued to be the church even in unprecedented times. But also, if we’re going to continue to be relevant in the coming age we must continually think and try, sometimes successfully sometimes not, ways to be relevant to those we’ve been commissioned to reach.

So, where do we go from here? We go forward! We go beyond the walls. Will things ever be the same? In some ways, I hope not. If we’ve learned nothing during this time then truly a good crisis has been wasted.

  • Bob Brown, Pastor

America, the world, has changed in the last month. The norm is no longer the norm. Children are at home. Parents are working from home if they’re even working at all. Trips out are discouraged. We’re told to go walk in a park -- just practice social distancing -- but the parks are closed. If you dare to go to the store the supply is low at best and things like toilet paper are impossible to buy.

And church? Well, church has now become something we do from our phone, computer, or television. I saw this meme and it rang pretty true:

And so we live in a new world. There’s going to be a new norm. We are now living in strange times and I suspect that even if in the next month or so things get back to how they were, that if what we’re being told is true, we’ll see all this again come fall, no school, no work, no church, etc.

Such is life for all of us right now. And the truth is that we don’t know when things will get better. Weeks, months, longer?

We are living with a level of anxiety we haven’t seen since 9/11. People are rightfully worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. We’re worried about losing our jobs, then our homes. We feel trapped by things that we can’t control.

I guess it makes sense that people are hoarding toilet paper. It makes sense that we can’t sleep.

So here’s a question for you. How should we respond as Christians?

1. Remain Calm

We, as Christians, should be the calmest people there are because we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and He holds the present and future in His hands. The pandemic didn’t catch God off guard. Heaven is not in a panic. If you stay glued to the news, you’ll no doubt lose your perspective. You’ll be overwhelmed! Focus on Christ, remember the promises given in His Word, and everything will be alright.

2. Stay in The Word

No one knows what tomorrow will bring but, as I mentioned above, God was not caught by surprise. I’ve seen people talking about the hobbies they’ve picked up during their downtime. And while I and my family have not found that “downtime”, in fact, I believe it’s just as busy -- and perhaps busier for me -- maybe you have found yourself with extra time on your hands.

While it is great to take up a hobby for yourself, I would also encourage you to take up getting into God’s Word. Take time to really study His teaching. Take advantage of the many pastors who are preaching and teaching online. Turn off the news and read a good book or The Good Book.

3. Do Something

Going along with the above paragraph, there are many things we can do during this time that have far more reaching and life-changing effects than stringing beads to make necklaces. I’ve seen many who are making masks to be given to nurses, paramedics, and police. What a great cause.

Also, we shouldn’t forget our churches during this time. Maybe you could paint a Sunday School room or clean and rearrange your church’s kitchen cabinets. I’m sure there are storage buildings and rooms that need cleaning and arranging.

You can also keep your eyes open for those in need. This includes senior citizens, the sick, and remember all the kids who haven’t been to school in a month and probably won’t be the rest of this year. All of us will have plenty of opportunities to minister in the days ahead. You’d don’t have to binge-watch every show on Netflix!

Hebrews 12:26 tells us that “once more” God will shake the world before Christ returns. That perspective helps us think wisely about the coronavirus pandemic. God is allowing a tiny microbe to bring the world to a standstill. Does He have our attention yet?

Why would God use a time like this to speak to us? Hebrews 12:27 says God is shaking everything that can be shaken (all the things built by man) so that only unshakable things can remain.

Eugen Peterson gave us this paraphrase:

The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.

Unshakable essentials. That really says it all! Maybe God is shaking the earth so that we will figure out what matters most. Here’s the good news. Perhaps out of these shaky days will come a vast spiritual harvest. People are asking questions because they want to know who they can trust. What a wonderful door for ministry that is being opened to us.

Don’t get overly shaken up. Don’t give in to fear. Use these times to grow in your relationship with the Lord.

Father, you are the solid rock beneath our feet. We are trusting you, and we will remain unshakable. When the kingdoms of the earth crumble to dust, your words will remain true. Amen.

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