In many places, gatherings of any size have been restricted to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). On Sunday, our church live-streamed our worship service for the first time ever. Many other churches did this as well, and I checked out portions of the other services in our community.
It was fun to be a fly on the wall in churches where I’ve never worshiped. Styles of dress, music, preaching, and 100 other things varied. But the same heart of faith beat within each service. What a wonderful encouragement it was.
COVID-19 has created such a culture of fear. I don’t say that dismissively. There is so much we don’t know about COVID-19; what we do know is that it is infectious and that some people die after contracting it. What we know + what we don’t know always = a volatile combination.
Personally, I feel this atmos-fear pressing me to wring my hands and hide in a closet. Despite the fact that being afraid helps very little, I find it unpopular to question the doctrine of fear. In conversation and social media, comments that don’t toe the party line of fear are met with data-scolding and finger-wagging. This is by no means universal, but I’ve seen it often enough to get the message.
The church services I eavesdropped on took a very different tone: hope in Jesus, love for God and for our neighbors, reality beyond death. I also enjoyed the creativity I saw as churches met the conflicting demands of social distancing and gathering as Christ’s body.
One pastor took COVID and used the letters as an acronym for God’s attributes. He only got through C and O (care and omniscience), but he wanted to create an association with the letters other than terror and help refocus people on God. He will get to the other letters in the coming weeks 🙂
Another pastor dealt with the negative PR Jesus and His disciples got for not fasting like disciples of John the Baptist or the Pharisees. Jesus and His disciples had a joy that others felt was out of place in the hallowed, somber halls of religion. Jesus said He and John were both approved since wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. The pastor encouraged each person to trust how the Lord is guiding them with regard to COVID-19; we should avoid judging others who react differently and not feel condemned if others judge our reactions.
My wife watched part of a service where the pastor urged people to be open about their faith during this crisis. These days, it’s easy to feel gun-shy about being Christian; easy to feel we need to apologize for the church’s past sins. Instead, the pastor called people to be bold. Many are looking for a refuge. In Christ, we are that refuge. People cannot find us if we hide our light.
When Jesus’s friend Lazarus died, Jesus announced, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). I am witnessing resurrection life in Christ’s body. In a climate ruled by the fear of death, the church is coming to life. With one voice we proclaim, “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock” (Psalm 40:2). Because Jesus is the resurrection, you can’t keep us down!