“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT
Well, that’s awkward. The Bible encourages us to meet together, but the government is encouraging us to not meet together. So whom do we obey? Battles about this have sprung up in the ongoing culture war, and Christians have joined in happily, picking their favorite side. On the one hand, many Christians have followed the wisdom of our political and ecclesial leaders and have agreed to suspend in-person gatherings as a way of protecting the physical health of the vulnerable among us. But on the other hand, there is a more radical group of Christians (from different camps) who have decided that worship is “essential” and that they will meet together, come heck or high water (even if the pastor gets arrested for doing it!). And that debate gets pretty politicized pretty quickly.
But instead of re-hashing all that, it’s more fruitful to use this unique experience as a spiritual exercise.
Lament: It is natural for us to ask deeper questions when we are confronted with something ominous like this pandemic. Is it a punishment for human sinfulness? Like a plague? Is God trying to tell us something here? Well, maybe. But it’s difficult to discern a clear message while in the thick of it. Rather than speculating about God’s activities in the world, it is better to follow the biblical pattern of lament. Lament is simply crying out to God, expressing one’s fears and anger without necessarily expecting a clear, swift answer. And that is what we need right now. Try praying the words of Psalms 6, 10, 13, 22, 44, or 130 as a way of expressing your anxieties and dismay.
- “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
- “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
- “Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:1-3)
There are no easy answers, but there is great value in praying fervently, even when God seems distant! If we are persistent, then when we come through the time of trial, we can proclaim, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)
Fasting and Discernment: Christians—especially Protestants—don’t talk much about fasting. Usually, we hear about fasting as giving up meat on Fridays in Lent. And that’s fine. But fasting can be more than just denying oneself decadent foods. But when we fast, we should replace the missing item with prayer and discernment for God’s will. And if you look at our lockdown from a positive view—if you look for the silver spiritual lining—it’s a version of fasting from community. That may sound weird, but it is not completely unhealthy to take a break, confine ourselves to our homes, and re-evaluate what is necessary and profitable in our lives. Why do we go to worship at church anyway? Why is that important? Why can’t I “worship” on the golf course or on the lake while fishing? Ask God those questions! It’s funny: When we have all the options in the world, we sometimes skip worship or Sunday school just because we don’t feel like going. But what would it be like if you were not allowed to go to worship or church at all? (Which is more than a hypothetical question!) Does absence really “make the heart grow fonder”? Or does it make our love grow cold? What will we NOT take for granted when we are allowed to meet freely again? These are the questions we need to be discerning while we are “fasting” from Christian community.
When I walk past our empty Sunday school tables—Bibles still sitting idly in place—I miss being with all of you. I pray that during this time you will grow in your love for Christ and for each other. I pray that you will long to live in community with each other, and that we will all be the church that Jesus intends us to be.
Be safe. Be blessed. Be prayerful.
The Life of Our Church
For the time being, our in-person worship services are suspended because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this appears that it will affect our Holy Week and Easter celebrations. So we will attempt to create an online presence that will keep us together until this passes!
Please visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel to discover our videos:
We will post a new Sunday service and message every week. We will also include two extra services for Holy Week: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
Supporting Our Church
It is important that we all continue to support our church’s mission during the shutdown. Even though we can’t meet in it, we are still maintaining a building! So please give generously. We do not have online giving, but you may mail (or drop in the mail slot) your gifts to 710 Walnut Street, Atlantic, IA 50022. Thank you!
America for Christ Offering
Thank you for your generosity! We raised $295 for the cause of Christ here in the United States. Thank you!
Sunday School, ABWM, and Diaconate
All of our in-person meetings are postponed for the immediate future.
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