Church 2020_03_22
March 22, 2020, 8:00 AM

"What is distinctive and engaging about Jesus is not the novel things he says but the way he says things. He is creative not so much because he says things that are completely new but because he speaks with such authority."  Author, John E. Goldingay

"Then Jesus said to them, 'The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!'"  Mark 2:27-28

 

This particular Sunday dawned surreal and historic.  Who can say the last time in the United States where so many churches were closed on the same Sunday, to say nothing of around the world and of the gathering places of other faith traditions?  It's possibly the first time, and it's surely unique due to the new foe we face, COVID-10, a.k.a., the corona virus.  Just think, a month or so ago those were terms relatively few knew, and now they are in global everyday use.

Over this past week, so many pastors and church leadership teams have studied and struggled to put in place some use of technology to aid their congregations to "go to church" virtually.  There are not only the practical and technical questions with this endeavor, but also the philosophical and theological ones.  What constitutes the worship of the church?  How can we deliver an experience which helps people connect in meaningful ways to their faith tradition without being in their familiar places?  Beyond singing and preaching, easy enough to deliver with camera and computer, what about collecting tithes and offerings?  And even more sticky and touchy, the topic of whether to offer the Lord's Supper, holy communion, the Eucharist?  [NOTE: Instruction from Bishop Nunn can be found under "COVID-19 RESOURCES" on this site.I haven't seen it, but I can't help but wonder if the question of on-line baptism hasn't been offered somewhere.  The issues are many and complex.  I don't intend or pretend to answer those many questions with these few words. But, I do offer a word of grace and life spoken into this unusual moment as we are making unexpected choices.

While I can't do a full-blown study here, it's worth pointing out a recurring theme in the gospels is that of "sabbath contoversy."  We read those texts now as disciples of Jesus, out of the faith experience of the church, whose primary day of worship is now the first day of the week, "the Lord's day," because of Jesus' resurrection from the dead on Sunday.  Yet, the notion of Sabbath, one day of rest each week, has a claim on people of biblical faith, even if we don't observe Saturday as that day as do the Jews.  My main point here is: Jesus' claim to be Lord of the sabbath makes a claim over the worship life of the people called "church."  That is a life-giving and grace-filled word for all church leaders just now.

As you make creative and challenging choices, keep the Lordship of Jesus front and center.  Speak the good news of Christ clearly and truly.  Be humble in your own decisions on how to order the worship life of the church.  Be gracious toward others who make different choices.  On one hand, avoid legalistic entanglement which takes worship away from those for whom God created it.  On the other hand, bring your rigorous best to the task of organizing and executing various worship options.  Whatever you do and however you choose to offer it, make it about Jesus' healing grace extended to a wounded world.

My hope and prayer, in a strange season which stretches out beyond what we can see from here, is that Jesus will step into the dawn again and again from the tombs of quarantine and crisis.  May the Lord of the sabbath, the Lord of Sunday, the Lord of the church bring new life as only he can into these days.  And to work through us to do that?  What a blessing!

Grace and peace,

Terry

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