Brother and Sisters,
It’s felt like a long week…and it’s just Wednesday night. Not a bad week mind you, but long. Much of my thinking, and no small amount of effort, has been consumed with questions of when we may be able to gather again as Felton Bible Church. In light of Governor Newsom’s four-stage approach to reopening our state (and where churches fit into that plan) we have some challenging questions to wrestle with. Those questions include (or may include) if, when, or how it might be necessary to take issue with that plan (Note: I’m not saying here that we should do so, but just remarking on the considerations at hand). In thinking over these things today, I was also encouraged/struck by the reminder from a brother pastor in our valley with respect to this thought: “What is God about with us as Jesus’ church right now? What is he doing to shape and change us for the future?”
In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus taught his disciples the hard truth of what awaited him, and thus them, in Jerusalem (the same truth we encountered on April 12th, Resurrection Sunday, with Luke 18:31-34). What awaited Jesus and his followers was very hard, tragically hard even; nothing less than suffering and death. Though he also said it would end in the glory of resurrection, Jesus’ men, evidenced by Peter, got stuck on the hard. In fact, Peter pulled his Rabbi (also the one he had just proclaimed to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God”) aside “…and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You’” (Matthew 16:22, NASB). Imagine, rebuking God himself in the flesh! Oh wait…I’m pretty sure I’ve done nearly the same thing…more than once. Jesus’ response to Peter was both swift and penetrating: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23, NASB).
Now, consider our situation. I don’t know exactly what will come of Governor Newsom’s plan as it pertains to Felton Bible Church (not to mention the many hurting folks in our community). I don’t know exactly how we should respond as a congregation, other than we must (and will) begin with prayer. But I do know this, I don’t want to respond like Peter. I don’t want our Great Shepherd to have cause to say to us: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me…” Undoubtedly, we’ve walked a difficult road in the last forty-plus days (though, in God’s mercy, haven’t we seen much blessing along the way?). It could be that we will walk through yet more pronounced difficulties before we emerge from shelter-in-place. It could be that God’s call on us as people in submission to our authorities will mean weeks more of “virtual” church. It could also be that we will need to take a particular sort of stand in response to undue restrictions. I don’t know. I do know that we want to be in lock-step with our Savior. May we set our mind not on man’s interest, but God’s. Beyond suffering and death, the glory of resurrection awaited Jesus and his disciples. We too, as followers of Christ, hope – in a sure, certain, anticipating kind of way – for the same thing: life after death. As a microcosm of that great hope, we hope now – in a sure, certain, anticipating kind of way – for the life God will give us on the other side of COVID-19.
So, hoping with you in light of what God has done…what he is doing now…and what he will do in the weeks ahead…
I remain yours In Christ,