“Quarantine life/quarantine life/Can’t lose weight, but I’m losing my mind.” That’s the first line of the chorus of a silly song by Christian musician Matthew West that’s been playing in my house pretty frequently. In fact, it’s become a bit of an ear worm, you might say. It’s a silly little ditty that makes fun of some of the “first world problems” we have to deal with while we’re sheltering in place in an attempt to make us feel just a tiny bit better about the whole thing. When the song is done, I usually have a smile on my face and a song in my heart…but the problems haven’t gone away.
And that’s a pretty good analogy for the Christian life in general, right? We have some harsh realities to face, like an enemy whose dearest goal and take-no-prisoners mission is to destroy any bit of creation he can get his hands on. The broken world and our broken natures, coopted with him, don’t help much either, either. And yet, we have a God who was willing to humble Himself, die on a cross, rise from a grave, and stand triumphant over all creation so that we could join Him in His resurrection victory! This is what it means to be followers of Jesus, and joyous Easter people, even as we head into the season of Pentecost. Broken world, victorious Jesus, church family. Not much has changed on that account…and it’s good news!
If you’ve been keeping up with my vlog, you’ll know that we’ve been reading through the book of Acts together, using its lessons on being the church to inform and enliven our faith community in this age. I’ve had some great conversations with my daughter Natalee about the nature of doing creative work in community, and we’ve both grown through our reading and discussions of Andrew Peterson’s book Adorning the Dark. My son Jarred and I have been contemplating the book of Proverbs in a similar pattern to the one my dad and I used to use, and now Leeann and I are starting a conversation about slowing life down as we read John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. There’s plenty there to think about and digest if you’re looking for something.
As we look to a new month, we’re going to start a conversation by way of a sermon series about how our 20/20 vision has necessarily been adjusted in the light of the events of these past few months. We all may have been starting to develop a picture of what we believed God was calling our church family to become. We celebrated the work that He was doing in our midst on that Celebration Sunday that feels like so long ago now. And we collectively leaned into what would come next. We could not possibly have imagined what our church and our society would look like at this time. Not even close. And yet, as I will continue to maintain, I firmly believe that God is up to something extraordinary here. Even if we can’t see it yet, there is a bit of good news that I won’t stop pointing out to you: God’s got the situation under control. While the world seems endlessly out of control, our God, who created and still sustains all things, is in control. Like the Psalmist, I encourage you and exhort you with good words: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalms 55:22, CSB).
And here’s another bit of good news: while our vision for what being the church will look like in days to come must be adjusted and revised, the lens through which we see our mission and world has not changed. We still have our 1-2-3’s. We still have just ONE mission to complete: making disciples of all people, anyone who is growing up into the image of God, who desire the character and competencies of Jesus. We still have TWO places where that work happens, even though one of them (our Temple space) has temporarily become unavailable to us. I trust that wherever people gather around God’s promises and His goodness, especially in our Table spaces, He is powerfully at work. And we still have THREE key relationships in which to invest our hearts, our time, our love, our effort…our whole being (Mark 12:30). We still have a God who wants to be in conversation with us through His Word and prayer (UP). We still have other Christians in our midst with whom we can connect and share life, even sheltered in place (IN). And we still have people around us who don’t yet know how much Jesus loves them, and just might be able to see Him through us and the way we love them (OUT). May God continue to richly bless us as we lean into His vision for Immanuel, as shockingly different as it may be from what we expected. After all, we’re in good company, right? Following Jesus always brings out something unexpected, but unexpectedly beautiful because…
Adventure is out there! Pastor Aaron