May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1 reads, “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.”  And it was on that day that the promised Holy Spirit came and filled them with the necessary spiritual gifts to spread the Gospel to every nation and tongue.   Now, what do you notice about that first Pentecost that is very different from today as we celebrate that wondrous event?

It wasn’t too hard to answer that question.  All the believers are NOT meeting together in one place!  At least not in most parts of the country, or even the world.  Instead, thousands upon thousands of pastors frantically struggle to make online messages of one sort or another available to their parishioners.  These range from posting written sermons like this one, pre-recorded audio CDs delivered to members, live or pre-recorded videos done under less than ideal conditions with limited technology, to elaborate productions that rival those of some well-known tele-evangelists.  But here is the problem.  How many of their parishioners actually sit down and read, listen, or watch as they would if they were in an actual church service, in a church building, with other Christians?  Many older ones do not even have the means to do so if they could, and many younger ones have found new outlets for their time and energy on Sunday mornings. 

It has now been two and a half months since we greeted each other, prayed together, sang hymns together, listened to the reading of God’s Word together, and broke the bread of the Lord’s Supper together.  These printed, recorded, and online versions are a mere snack compared to the nutritious meal that is served during an in-person worship service.  Not that one cannot survive for a while on snack food, but it is not the healthiest choice by far.  It is similar to what Paul described as living on milk alone, without any solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2). 

I was extremely blessed last Sunday when I was actually able to attend a worship service in a different state, the state that Ed and I will be moving to in the very near future, where we will begin serving the Lord among a new (to us) blessed group of believers in Christ, who have not given up meeting together, but encourage one another all the more as they see the day of Christ’s return drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).

Now, I am not trying to put down pastors who are not holding services, under the orders of their Bishop and/or Governor who made such a ruling with the good intention of protecting the vulnerable from a virus that has taken lives among those with weakened immunity.  We each must do what the Lord has put in our hearts to do, and those whom the Lord has put over us have a great responsibility, and one in which difficult decisions must be made.  And I agree that in congregations in which the majority of congregants are either elderly or susceptible due to other health reasons, it is in their best interest to find new ways to minister without causing harm.  But keep in mind that we must never view this as a ‘new normal’, because it will never be normal for believers to cease meeting together. 

Remember what happened when Moses left his flock to climb Mt Sinai to speak with the Lord?  While he was doing what the Lord asked him to do, the absence of his physical presence left the people vulnerable to the wiles of the devil, who persuaded them to build an idol for themselves (Exodus 32:1-6).  And today, what idols have replaced the one true God in those who have been cut off from the church that nurtured their faith?  Cut off from their fellow believers whose presence kept them from committing sins they never would have before because they were accountable to one another?  How many have turned to looking “for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear”? (2 Timothy 4:3).  How long before the Moses’ of today return only to find that everything they worked and prayed for in the people they have been entrusted with has fallen apart?

The apostle Peter warns us: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).  And how do lions hunt?  They first separate their prey from the pack, starting with the weakest.   We must remain together, protect the weak among us, nurture the individual strengths and gifts within each church, and support the church (Body of Christ) as a whole.  “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Do you know where that quote comes from?  It is from one of Aesop’s Fables, “The Four Oxen and the Lion”.  The fable reads as follows: “A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.  United we stand, divided we fall.”  Like it or not, we need each other.  We need each other as much for our spiritual health as we need nutritious food for our physical health.  Meeting together is essential for a Christian.  So let’s cease arguing among ourselves like the four oxen about when and how to resume services, and let’s stand together so we do not lose any among us to the lion who is looking for someone to devour.  Amen.

VIDEO:  “Church” (Take Me Back) - Cochren & Co.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eTOcrWu8mQ