Monday, March 23, 2020

"Longing for the Gathering. Longing for the Day." A Guest Post by Kristine Nethers

There are things you grow up learning that you are sure to be true. As an American, you learn that this is the land of ‘milk and honey’, of ‘supersize me’ and ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’. However, much of these identifiers of American life which have always seemed true, seem to be proven false in the last week of the Covid-19 crisis. Stores are out of milk. Restaurants have closed down. There is little to be supersized and if you have a supersize pack of toilet paper, you might as well have won the lottery. There is much we cannot do even if we dream it. The ‘land of plenty’ now seems to be the ‘land of scarcity’.

We all feel that scarcity.

In a week’s time, so much has been taken away: routine, plans, human contact, social nearness, and a sense of normalcy. Sunday morning gatherings have also been taken away. With that comes an end of hearing my brothers and sisters sing in praise together to Jesus, an end to praying together in person, and end to responding to the preached word and partaking of communion, an end to many, many Sunday side hugs. I miss all of it.

I love the embodied gathering of the people of God. I love Sunday church services more than the average person. I go to both services by choice. When on vacation, I visit other churches and am inspired by what I learn. While in New York City at Redeemer Presbyterian, I learned a great way to introduce new members. While at a church in Nebraska, I learned how the church can host an art studio and outdoor garden for the benefit of its city. I realize my love for and fascination with church is outside of the norm. And while I may not be normal, my love of Sunday church gatherings is substantiated in the Bible.

Throughout the Old and New Testament, God affirms the need for His people to be gathered together around his Word. So, if God's desire is for us to gather, how can that desire be denied during this lockdown? It feels wrong because I thought it was wrong not to gather.

Yet, I have not had to look hard to see that longing in the Christian faith is not new, even if it is new to me. Throughout the New Testament, Paul longs to gather with the church. Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:9-12).

Longing fueled Paul's letter writing. God allowed Paul to long to be with the church of Rome so that he would write a powerful letter that would strengthen the hundred or so believers in Rome at the time and to strengthen millions of subsequent believers for Millenia to come. 

God works powerfully in longing. Paul’s longing for the churches in Rome, Colosse, Thessalonica, Phillipi, Ephesus, Corinth and Galatia resulted in enduring and eternal letters that would empower millions of Christians to know and follow Jesus, to access the power of the Spirit, to be fortified against opposition and to build his Church according to his design.

If Paul’s longing was used mightily by God, could he do something with my longing?

I ask that question as I sit on Sunday morning in my living room. I’m wearing leisurewear, streaming the sermon online and singing along to YouTube sets. My circumstances are sad, but it points me to the hope in his Word, which gives me faith and assurance that God will indeed use my longing.

In my longing, I feel God calling me to use this time to pray and dream. I have much more time to do that as I had before. I don’t want to miss the opportunity. My prayer and dream is for when the church can gather together again. I long to see, in person, the faces of my brothers and sisters. I dream of singing worship songs together with them, even if a few are off-key! I look forward to embracing many with tighter side hugs. I am dreaming that I will again be greeted at the door by our eldest member, who at 94, gives the best hugs in the church. There is much to look forward to as I long.

Already my one-week of longing for the gathered church has given me a greater longing for that Day, when Jesus will gather His Church to Himself. For on that Day, I will at last see Him face-to-face and be gathered into His eternal embrace. I will embrace the saints of all who have gone before. On that Day, all my longings will be no more and all my dreams will be superseded. For all eternity, I will enjoy the gathering of the saints without ceasing as we forever worship Jesus face-to-face. What a Day that will be.
Longing for that Day has fueled my prayers on this day. 
May longing fuel you too.

Friday, March 13, 2020

An Update for our Gatherings during the COVID-19 Pandemic

We wanted to continue to keep you updated in light of our gatherings and the Covid-19 virus. We messaged you yesterday afternoon letting you know that in view of the pandemic we would be gathering this Sunday the 15th March as a church at 9 and 11am as normal, and then moving to church in homes for Sundays 22nd and 29th March. This was in light of the California Dept. of Public heath’s guidelines discouraging mass gatherings in California. As you are well aware, the situation is incredibly fluid. After extensive consultation today with medical professionals, as well as the closure of all schools in Fullerton, Brea and Yorba Linda school districts in what is now understood to be a national state of emergency, we have decided to move our ‘church in homes’ strategy forward to this Sunday the 15th march and next Sunday 22nd march. 

This is not a fear-based decision. It is erring on the side of caution out of love for our neighbors. Because the COVID-19 virus is a-symptomatic and testing for it is very slow in the USA, most health experts agree that not waiting to cancel larger gatherings is key to stemming the tide of the virus, especially given what we know about how a large percentage of people are carrying the virus without knowing they are carrying it. So, we will not gather together as one congregation this Sunday, but will rather gather in homes for at least the next two Sundays, until we have further information. This has been a prayerful decision and we believe it is being done in faith, love and wisdom. We honestly believe that gathering in homes to worship and sit under the word and fellowship is a deeply meaningful way of being the Church and I am excited to see what God does among us in a very unusual situation. 

So, this Sunday 15th March and the next, we encourage you to gather in homes and watch a pre-recorded video of my message from Acts 27/28 on “Contagious Calm in a Time of Crisis.” We are working with leaders and hosts of these home gatherings to equip them to make them as edifying and encouraging as possible. There will be worship resources, resources for children to learn as well as questions for discussion of the sermon. We will be communicating those locations to you shortly via email as well as posting the locations at These will include existing life group locations, but there will also be a few extra locations for those who are not currently in life groups. Obviously, if you are ill or have a compromised immune system you are welcome to watch the sermon on your own from our website or on Facebook, but we encourage you to make the most of this unique challenge by building community in homes if at all possible. Feel free to email for any logistical questions.

Thank you for your flexibility and co-operation as we take these unprecedented steps. May the Lord protect and strengthen us for His glory at this time. The Church has always been at its strongest in crisis and scattering, so let’s trust Jesus that he is powerfully at work among us during this time. We are not merely asking that the Lord would help us to survive this crisis. we are asking that he would use it to revive us and the people around us. Let’s be praying together to that end.