April 20, 2020
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
If you were to pull out a Bible concordance (for those who don’t know what that is, think word study pre-Google) and do a search on the word “waiting”, you would find hundreds of verses in the Bible.
The reason? It’s obvious, waiting is a reality of every area of life, and the Bible speaks to true reality. However, what often gets lost in this is that God designed reality this way because he is always (and I mean always) seeking to work in and through our waiting. In God’s providential purposes, we wait not passively but actively. When we wait in our strength, we are drained. When we wait in God’s strength, we are renewed.
We’re all waiting and longing for the day we can gather as a church once again. The digital ministry has been great, and I’ve been encouraged how connected we can be with you across various platforms, but it’s limited. While the definition of the church is not a building, it is also not just “people”, but people gathered. The NT word for church, ecclesia, literally means assembly or congregation. So yes the church is a people, but it is a people gathered. And during this unique time, when we cannot gather, it is ok to lament. I do every Sunday when I wake up and am reminded once again that we won’t be able to gather another week.
And so we wait, and here’s the paradox of it all. While we suffer the lack of embodied fellowship, we will return stronger after this time of waiting, because those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. So what does strength-renewing waiting look like? How does it happen?
-By drawing near to the Lord in this time in personal prayer/study
-By ensuring we don’t fill our time with mindless things that distract, but meaningful things that will stir our affections for Christ.
-By staying connected with others via digital ministry platforms and personal connections
-By praying for others, especially those who are struggling in this time physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.
It has been six weeks since we have last gathered, and I have been encouraged by how many of you have been doing these very things. I’ve witnessed you caring for one another in prayer and practice, providing meals, groceries, and personal cards to just name a few things. I’ve witnessed us as a church body provide for communities around us, whether it be through donating meals to medical workers at Valley, donating food/clothing to Star of Hope to assist in their provision for those hit hard in Paterson, and seeking to help those displaced by a fire in Ridgewood. I’ve been encouraged by your steadfast generosity towards Grace during these 6 weeks, even while many face uncertain financial realities themselves both now and in the future.
While we have been apart for longer than we ever thought we would, we still don’t know when we will be able to return, or what that return even looks like at the outset. And so we wait.
And while we wait, we grow. Our digital ministry plan has settled into a routine that we want to encourage you to dive into. A few of the Grace Groups are still meeting consistently, and if yours is, then by all means continue with them, but we also want to have a midweek gathering open to everyone each week. So here is the plan, every other week we will have an all-church prayer meeting via Zoom on Wednesday night from 8pm-9pm. On the off weeks (starting this week), we will have a Men’s Study on Zoom on Tuesday nights from 8pm-9pm, and a Women’s Study on Zoom on Wednesday nights from 8pm-9pm. The morning of each gathering, Mary will send out a Zoom link to access that evening.
While you may not be able to do everything, we want to ensure that every member and attender of Grace is doing something to stay connected with the church in addition to the Sunday digital worship service.
I have been so encouraged by how motivated and hard the staff has been working to connect with you and provide opportunities for you to connect with one another during this time. So, yes we will wait, but we will get stronger as we do, so that when we can safely gather again as a church, we’ll hit the ground running toward furthering God’s Kingdom for God’s Glory.
The health of our church hasn’t been diminished, it’s been revealed. And I can say today, April 20th, that I’m as proud to be your pastor as I ever have been. To God be the Glory!