Never Alone

Prior to the last few weeks, I was not aware of the term “social distancing”. The concept is simple, to keep distance from others in an attempt stop or at the very least minimize the transmission of this coronavirus that is affecting our world. As an extrovert, the idea of being away from others is not terribly enjoyable to think of, but for a short time it is doable. What is even more strange though is to not gather as the church on a Sunday to worship. While I know the church is not the location, it still feels wrong not to gather as we are instructed in scripture to do.

We certainly are not the first local church to have to find a unique way to worship. Churches around the world face the challenges of meeting either because of persecution, geography, and yes even health. In fact, this should make us more and more aware of our responsibility to reach out to those cannot make it to a gathering regularly because of health issues.

There is a saying that says, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” and I think for some today, we may be realizing how much we take for granted our freedom to gather. The reality that it shouldn’t be treated as a choice, but a privilege to gather whenever we can.

Similarly, our world has been chugging along with a sense of self sufficiency for a long time. I know we have had conversations at leadership meeting of how people don’t realize their need for a saviour, because we have seemingly all we need (especially in North America). Then a week like this hits and we see a certain level of chaos ensue. People’s content and sufficient lives are being put to the test and the material hopes are being stripped away.

This morning, I still want to touch on Statement 9 on the Church in our series “This is Us”. The irony isn’t lost that we learn of this while not being able to gather, but I think this helps draw out for us that our primary purpose is not simply to gather, but to be on mission with God.

Before we get into the statement, take time to watch/sing along with this YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXzETuK792E

Let’s read this statement on the Church…

  1. Church:
    The universal Church, of which Christ is the Head, consists of all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and commissioned by Christ to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the Gospel to all nations.

The local church, the visible expression of the universal Church, is a body of believers in Christ who are joined together to worship God, to observe the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to pray, to be edified through the Word of God, to fellowship, and to testify in word and deed to the good news of salvation both locally and globally. The local church enters into relationships with other like-minded churches for accountability, encouragement and mission.

Part 1 – The Universal Church

The universal Church, of which Christ is the Head, consists of all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and commissioned by Christ to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the Gospel to all nations.

The universal church is quite simply speaking of ALL Christians, from ALL times, in ALL places. The emphasis is that we are a part of something much, much bigger than ourselves!

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:6-12

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Paul is drawing attention to the fact that for the early church both Jews and Gentiles were united together in Christ. They shared something that previously they never thought possible. All of this is because of the person of Jesus as highlighted in verse 12.

I remember being in a worship service in Bamako, Mali in 2004. I was the minority in that setting and I was washed with all sorts of emotions of just the uncertainty of why we were there, what was taking place, and so forth. But there was a section of the service where the people spoke the Lord’s prayer, the Apostle’s creed, and then sang the Doxology prior to communion and even in another language it was clear what was taking place. It was a beautiful reminder of the union we have with brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, across ethnic and socio-economic boundaries.

We are a part of a movement that has been going on for thousands of years, spans the globe and is united because of the person of Jesus. We need to remember this. To know we are not alone and also to support what is going on beyond our local church walls.

Prayer – Let’s take some time to pray for the church around the world. Christians facing much more dangerous outcomes from the Coronavirus than we are, Christians facing persecution for their faith, and missionaries who are sacrificing to take the good news of Jesus to some of the hardest parts of the world.

After you have spent time in prayer, take time to watch/sing with this YouTube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94KbIGWdKa4

Part 2 – The Local Church

The local church, the visible expression of the universal Church, is a body of believers in Christ who are joined together to worship God, to observe the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to pray, to be edified through the Word of God, to fellowship, and to testify in word and deed to the good news of salvation both locally and globally. The local church enters into relationships with other like-minded churches for accountability, encouragement and mission.

Let’s read Acts 2:41-47 as it gives us a great picture of how the early church functioned…

41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Teaching, fellowship, prayer, gifts being used, generosity, gathering, sharing meals, praise, God’s favour, and people being saved daily. What a great picture of what the local church should look like. Every generation seems to try and find a new way to continue to do this as society and our world changes. Typically for us our Sunday gatherings and small groups are meant to help us live as a local church, but more and more we also see the use of gifts in blessing the marginalized in our community as well as people seeing even the work they do as a form of worship. This is great, the church continues to be the church in our world, but it goes back to an earlier point that we must be cautious to not take our privilege as the church for granted or we will stop connecting with others, we’ll become insular, our generosity will dry up, and we’ll trade truth for convenience.

So let’s spend a few minutes considering a few questions:

  1. Since our present circumstances are challenging the way we currently do things, how do we then live this out in our present reality?
  2. When the conveniences come back, how do we make sure we don’t lose sight of our need for one another?
  3. How are/do we live out the generosity we see in the early church?

Our life as the part of the church has never been meant solely for who is here today, God wants his church to be growing. He says in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8…

Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We are called to be on mission WITH God. We are to stand out and be different (in a good way), where the world around us sees this thing called the church and views it as a place of hope, healing and salvation.

So here’s a few more questions to consider…

  1. What does mission look like today in light of COVID-19?
  2. Is it possible that in this time of desperation, that God wants the witness of his church to shine brightly for all to see?
  3. What are some practical ways you and I can show the love of God during this season?

Church, I believe we have an opportunity to be used by God. While I’m disappointed we aren’t meeting together in person today, I already have seen signs of how our willingness to suspend our service is saying to the larger community that we are not just about ourselves. This helps break down walls that will allow us to share the hope we have in Jesus.

If you would like us to email you the missions prayer requests, please let the office know.

A reminder that even though we are not able to meet, we continue to have financial responsibilities both for our local ministries and our global ministries. Our giving is meant to be part of our worship and so while it may seem different we want to give you the opportunity to do this now through Canada Helps. Follow this link https://bayridgealliance.ca/give-with-canada-helps/ and click on the donate button to give. Thank you for honouring God by supporting the Church.

Now, let’s close with the doxology and our benediction…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBBnOJpclMQ

Benediction:

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’