“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6)
After months of confinement, we have had a first-hand experience how God meets with us wherever His people are gathered. The experience of worship together online has been rich in so many ways! How true that the Presence of the Lord Jesus is with us, wherever we are and wherever we go (Matthew 28:20). So, the church has never been “closed.” We have simply been displaced, dispersed, and scattered. We have been, and will always be the church. No matter if we gather in the building or not, we all are ‘living temples’ bringing the light and love of Jesus to all people, and giving God our praise. We may miss our curtailed freedoms, but what a powerful and lasting lesson we can teach ourselves and our children! By faith in Jesus, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), whether we are gathering in the buildings at 53 Cochituate or in confinement in our homes.
This past Sunday, we had our first time at TCC to worship together again. Like other sister churches in the area, we are opening our doors this month. This will take patience and a sense of trusting in the Lord in ways we never have had to do. In many ways, last Sunday felt like a soft launch and it reminded me a lot of the return from Exile in the books of Ezra-Nehemiah. The people of God were displaced in exile and didn’t have a place to worship for 70 years. But now (Ezra 1:1), they are slowly returning to Zion and the place where worship once took place. In their case, the community is starting from scratch. They have to rebuild the temple and restore the worship of the Living God. Humanly speaking, this is a tall order and it is no wonder the process itself takes a lot of efforts with a lot of setbacks (Ezra 4). In fact from beginning to end it takes almost 100 years!* While we are not dealing with these lengthy timelines today (we hope!!!), nevertheless our forefathers in the faith can also teach us a thing or two about our own confinement and “exile” and our own return to worship together in 2020.
First, we can’t despise the days of small beginnings. We are opening our doors for worship at TCC, but this is only the very beginning. This phase may seem like “nothing” (Haggai 2:3-4), but it is the start of renewed worship together and we rejoice in the hope that one day we will be together as a whole church again.
Second, in this “now and not yet” of worshiping together, we want especially to say those who want to come in on Sunday, welcome back! Worshiping together is awesome and we have room for you to gather safely in our big space in Phillips and the Gym. Many churches do not have access to such space and we are so thankful for our wonderful facilities. And we say to those who continue to worship in confinement, continue the practice to gather together as families. His Presence will continue to be felt powerfully as we enter into His Gates with thanksgiving in our hearts!
Finally, during the (many) times we feel discouraged, God says, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). The building up of God’s people is something God by His Spirit creates (1 Peter 2:4-6). We are trusting in Him to build up His Church. We hold both truths together: the church is not a building built with “human hands” (Acts 7:48, ironically, a quote from Solomon the temple builder); and we also remember the exhortation not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).
*539 B.C. to 444 B.C.