We Came, We Sang, We Sharpened
Do you remember March 8? It was a Sunday. Pastor Michael preached on Jesus' teaching on the vine and the branches in John 15. It was a stirring message about the consequence of turning your back on God. He used a music stand instead of a pulpit. We had no offering in order to prevent the spread of a new virus. And in order to be prepared for the next communion, Pastor Bryan ordered some nifty little communion packs with juice and a gluten-free wafer inside.
Then, for four months, worshiping together was "non-essential".
This Sunday, July 12, the congregational hibernation came to a close. Over 60 of us were blessed by hearing the word, singing praise to God, remembering Jesus' death for our sins, and enjoying the (mostly covered) faces of God's children. We finally used those communion packs and they still tasted good!
God has been so good to us in the meantime, hasn't he? He has given us ministry opportunities to care for the basic needs of those inside and outside the church. He has given us opportunities to share the gospel. He has also revealed our sin and weaknesses as we grew tired of being confined to our homes. But, graciously, he has also given us Zoom so that we could confess those sins in our small groups and work toward being more content and Christ-like in the meantime.
In the last four months, our challenge has been to find ways to adapt to all the isolation.
In the coming months, I think our challenge will be to stop isolating ourselves.
Proverbs 18:1 says, "One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom." State-mandated isolation is one thing; but self-imposed isolation from other Christians gives way to sin. Spiritual isolation fosters our selfish desires by making us feel comfortable as we are. Instead of submitting to the challenging commands of Scripture, we relax or ignore them.
There's no better example of this in the Bible than Jonah. When he rebelled against God's command by going to Joppa, he also isolated himself, going "below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep" (Jonah 1:5).
But the deep sleep of rebellion against God never lasts forever. Like Jonah, God sends a storm our way, the waves start beating against our boat, and the captain awakens us yelling, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!"
The antithesis of isolation is fellowship. Fellowship with strong Christian friends help to keep you on the road to Ninevah. When you open yourself up to others in the church, when you tell them about your life and its problems, they can help you. They can show you your identity in Christ and your purpose in God's word.
My favorite thing about this last Sunday was having a few deep conversations with people I hadn't seen in months. Proverbs 27:17 says "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Long conversations with solid Christians stir up truth and love for God in my heart. They make me cherish my salvation and value the people God's put in my life. That's what makes me sharper.
Whether or not you feel comfortable meeting in large groups yet, God wants you to be in deep relationships with those in your spiritual family. Titus 2 commands every individual in the church to be regularly drawing on the wisdom of Christians who are more mature than they are and also pouring into those who are younger in the faith. How are you doing in those two areas?
Church isn't back in session when we merely congregate in the same place, wonderful as that is. Church happens when we love each other so much that we sharpen each other to be more useful in our Master's hand.