Please be patient as we navigate new grounds of recording / live streaming together. God is already bringing good of the bad (Romans 8:28) – this allows us to reach far beyond the 4 walls of our church building. Also, remember that sermon notes below are meant to act as a guide and may not be exactly what was preached.
Wow have things changed in the past week!! Having been asked not to congregate in groups of ten or more, the Elders and I have come to the difficult decision to not hold worship services at our building. I have preached for years that the Church is not a building, that you and I together, with every other blood bought, God fearing, born again Christian, are THE Church.
The Word of God tells us in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; instead perfect love drives out fear.” That love being talked about here is God’s love for His Church. When you comprehend His love, the love He has for you, then you know that you can trust Him to get you through what you are experiencing in this life. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:6, “For we eagerly await through the Spirit, by faith, the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.” Our faith works through the knowledge we have of God’s love for us.
The Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5 tells us, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, 2 and walk in love, (His Love for us) as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”
As we walk in God’s love for us, we can resist the urge to panic in the midst of all that is going on around us. Yes, we should be concerned and take the necessary precautions such as washing our hands and face, avoiding crowds, and those that are sick. The word from our nation’s leaders, the news media, and on social media is all pretty negative and very frightening to many outside God’s Church. Panic and fear are not from our Lord God, they are tools and weapons of the enemy, and we combat those things by prayer and the word of God. The Lord tells us through the prophet Isaiah that no weapon formed against us will prosper or succeed (Isaiah 54:17).
We also must be careful not to point fingers or place blame on individuals in our communities who may be carrying, or who have carried, the virus. This virus is the enemy, not those who may or may not be carrying it.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty, of panic buying, shortages, fear, and a quarantine that is, and will, cause feelings of isolation – those feelings of isolation can lead to loneliness and depression. In the midst of all this, it is you, as part of a Community of believers, as God’s dearly loved children, as God’s Church, that are to be seeking to build community and be there in answer to the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Do your best to answer the questions and concerns that will come about life, death, and meaning in the midst of all this chaos. If you don’t have the answe,r call an Elder of the congregation or myself.
The Health Resources and Services Administration cautions that loneliness can be very damaging to the health of an individual. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of depression, high blood pressure, and death from heart disease. They can also affect the immune system’s ability to fight infection — a fact that’s especially relevant now.
Last week we looked at how we were created for community, created in the image of God, and how God is community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having been created in the image of God we were created to be in community not only with God, but with one another. The first “not good” mentioned in God’s Word is, “It is not Good for Man to be alone.”
This is one of the reasons we started a community youth group, why we do the movie nights in the park, and why we have R & P, our coffee shop, so that we can help build community and relationships and, thereby, the Kingdom of God.
But now we are told not to be in community with groups of more than 10, but that does not mean we quit being the Church! We need to be the Church to those who don’t know God’s love.
The Church is not a building! We are a community of believers, the children of God, and it is time that we showed the World that truth, by being the Church of the Living God to our communities. I am sure you have heard that the Church is to be the hands and feet of God. Now is the time to be His Voice, to show His love and reach out to your neighbor, to let them know that you are there in this time of tribulation and turmoil. To speak peace, calmness, faith, and trust in the Lord God Almighty.
They may not know God’s Love and may be living in the darkness of fear, isolated, alone, and without hope. You are to carry the light of God’s love to a lost and hurting world. In Habakkuk 2 after praying to the Lord, the prophet waits For God’s response, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give…”
Henry Blackaby said that, “As a Christian, God places you as a watchman for yourself, your friends, your family, and your church family. It is essential that you be attentive to what God is saying. It may be that a friend is in crisis and needs God’s word. As you study your Bible, God may choose to give you words of encouragement to share with your friend. It may be that as your children face difficult challenges, God will speak to you as you pray and reveal how you can help them. If you are spiritually alert, you may receive a warning from God that addresses specific dangers that those around you are facing.”
There are over 7.5 billion people in the world, 12.8 million of those people live in Pennsylvania, with over 65,000 living as our neighbors in Armstrong County. Of those, there are over 5000 in Cowanshannock and Wayne townships and that includes Rural Valley and Dayton. These people are just as confused and concerned…
Still most of us don’t know the people who live around us; our neighbors. We may shop at local stores and know of some of the people we bumped into, but we really don’t know them for who they truly are. That only happens in community, when people come together with a common goal or purpose. Today that common goal is to stay safe and virus free. But for the Community of God, for His Church our goal has not changed.
The Church community has a purpose, we have a common goal, to reach out into our communities with the love of Christ, to spread the Gospel, and be ambassadors (think 2 Corinthians 5…). We are witnesses of the love God has for the whole world. Yes, we have our problems, but now is not the time to address those, now is the time to rise up and be the Church, to come together as the Church, set aside our differences and help one another. Just as our brothers and sisters here at Summit are helping us today by enabling us to broadcast this service (truly Kingdom work!).
Together we are stronger! Together we can ease the fear and uncertainty of what the media and the world are throwing at us. Go: make the call, send the text, reach out to your neighbor, your friends, your family, see what their needs are be kind, be generous, be the voice and love of God…Be the church! Build community and relationships, and through your acts of love and kindness God will build His Church!
Again, I want to encourage you to keep yourself safe, wash your hands and face, keep the 6 foot distance recommended, if you’re sick (to the best of your ability) stay away from others. If your “neighbor” gets sick keep the distance, but also keep in touch with them, do not ostracize them from our community. Jesus never shunned a leper, contact can still be made be made by phone, email, skype, or Facebook. Deliveries of medicine, food, or paper products can be made to their door. Let them know they are loved and cared about and that they are not alone!
Let your church know so that they can reach out and try to provide anything that you may need for yourself or your neighbor. Jesus reached out to the sick, the shunned, and the isolated.
The enemy, the world, may have closed the doors of our Church buildings but the Church is not a building, we are not our building, we are not closed, or stopped, or kept from loving our neighbor, or from being the Children of God!
One final thought: I want us to have the community we lost at The Fall. I want us together, as a community, a church, a fellowship, to reach up to God and, together, to reach out into our communities in love! This is our calling, this is the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, “To Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). It is the Church that is to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
In Acts 1 Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses (think ambassadors) in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Let me break that down for you: your Jerusalem is your immediate community, your Judea is the township or borough or even county where you live, your Samaria is the place you may not want to go (Samaria was a place no self-respecting Jew would go), and the ends of the earth…
In this difficult time we are still called to love God and our neighbor. And while the “go” of the Great Commission is going to be difficult, the mission can still be accomplished as we reach out to our neighbors and friends with and in the love of God.
- How are you a part of the community in which you live?
- How many of your neighbors do you not only know of, but actually know?
- Who can you reach out to today with the love of God?
Further Reading: Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42, Romans 12:3-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Matthew 22:37-40
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