April 14, 2021
There is an old story about two guys in the woods who came across a bear. In their fright, they took off running when one guy said to the other, “We can’t outrun a bear.” The other guy said, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you.” I thought of that story the other day. Charlie is a friend of mine who likes to work out. The other day I told him, “You know this is a losing battle.” Death is going to catch us all, and while exercising may help postpone the inevitable, it is still inevitable. That is really good and helpful counsel. Seriously! Some people think that life here is forever. It isn’t. You have a limited number of days. How do you want to live them? As followers of Christ, our view of eternity informs our view of now. That is important for us, particularly in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t want to end.
By the way, it is very likely that Covid is going to be around for a very, very long time. Remember that this is Covid-19. That means there were 18 before, and there will likely be a Covid-20 and more to come after that. There are a variety of strains and mutations that will continue to come from Covid-19 because that is what viruses do. You learn to live with a virus, but it is unlikely that it will ever be eliminated. So, how do you want to live? The answer to that is going to vary from person to person and perhaps from week to week because your situations are not only different, but they are fluid. Therefore, there is no way that a “one-size fits all” approach is going to work for us as a church. But, let me remind you of a few things.
The church has been entrusted with the gospel, and the gospel is the most important news that any person could ever hear. The church means the gathering (assembly) of the people of God. If we are going to be a church, we have to gather. But, what about Covid?! The reality of a pandemic actually emphasizes the importance of the church. People are getting sick, and people are dying. This is not a time to be quiet about the gospel, but to be even more vocal. At the same time, we do not have to choose between being faithful to our calling or being irresponsible. We do not have to choose between trusting God and being neglectful of others. In fact, our trust in God and love for God drives our love for and sensitivity toward others.
In our congregation, we have members who have been vaccinated and members who have not. There are members who have been partially vaccinated and members who do not want to get vaccinated. We have members who have gotten Covid and have the antibodies and have gotten vaccinated and members who have gotten Covid and have the antibodies and not gotten vaccinated. We have members who wear masks all the time, members who can’t wear masks, and members who believe that masks actually do more harm than good. We have members who thought that this Covid thing was not a big deal until they got Covid, and now don’t want to leave their house. We have members who are isolated, lonely, and fearful. We have members who are physically isolated, but not lonely and not fearful. We have members who have not gotten Covid and don’t really care, and members who haven’t gotten Covid and are very concerned about it. I could go on, but you get the idea. From the perspective of the elders, we love you, and we trust you to make good decisions that are best for your situation. We hear from you, and what we hear reflects much of this previous paragraph.
We know that means that, when you are sick, you are going to stay home, as you should. We know that if your immune system is compromised, that you are going to be very, very careful, and others need to be very, very careful around you. If you have been exposed to the virus, you are going to quarantine and perhaps get tested. We know that if you are in a job that is constantly questioning you about your comings and goings, that you have to take steps that others do not. I watch the number of positive cases on a daily basis and the death rate. The wives of three of our pastoral staff are nurses, and we have a number of medical personnel in the church who are on the front lines. Our approach is biblically based and reasonably informed. We are trying to do what we must do and will attempt to do all that we can do.
For now, we are providing options. These options are: 1) An outdoor gathering (weather permitting) on Sunday mornings where the service can be shared together, in person, but basically at zero risk. 2) An indoor gathering in the gym where the service can be shared together and where physical distancing can be very generous. 3) A section in the Worship Center that is for those who want to be completely masked and only around those completely masked and seated in every other pew. 4) A section in the Worship Center where masks are optional, but where seating is every other pew. 5) A section in the Worship Center where masks are optional and where seating is however you want. 6) Live-streaming the service for those who have to stay home.
In all of this, we must keep the main thing the main thing. Do I have a view on masks? Yes. Do you need to know it? No. Do I have view on vaccinations? Yes. Do you need to know it? No. Do I have a view of physical distancing? Yes. Do you need to know it? No. What you have to know is the gospel. What you have to know is God’s Word. What you have to know is how to live a godly life in this present, evil, dying, and decaying world. The Worship Center is a good visual for me. The practices of our congregation vary from one side to another on these situational matters, but we are all gathered by the gloriously unchangeable message and reality of the cross.
Beloved, thank you for your faithfulness. Let us not be weary in well-doing. We will reap if we faint not. Covid is not our enemy. Faithlessness is.
Grace and peace,
Sunday’s text: 2 Peter 1:5-7