It has been 5 months now since we last had in-person gatherings, and I am sure all of you miss that time of gathering together. I certainly miss it! I miss the time where we can sing praises to God together as one body, where we can pray together as one voice, and where we can sit under God’s Word together as one flock.
At this point in the pandemic, it is easy to fall into two opposites sides of the spectrum. On one side of the spectrum is what we might call optimistic presumption. This is an optimism that is not grounded in reality. It simply says “Everything is going to be fine, everything is going to be back to normal.” It is that approach of the ostrich with his head buried in the sand. On the other side would be despair. This is where we say “Nothing’s going to be ok. There will never be any light at the end of the tunnel.”
However, neither is a thoroughly Christian approach. The Christian approach is one that speaks of hope. Hope is not groundless, because it says that God is holding the future; He is present in the future; He brings us into the future. But by its very nature, hope is forwardlooking, which means that it is confident of the future without diminishing the challenges of the present. It means we own our difficult circumstances now, not downplaying it, and yet we trust God that there will be a brand new day.
So let me just encourage all of us to hold on to hope. In the book of Jeremiah, God promised that after 70 years in exile, he would bring his people home. Now obviously there were people who hoped that God would bring them home sooner! And the false prophets certainly promised that it would only take 2-3 years before God would prosper them again.
Once again, they presumed. That’s not what we should do. We trust God, rather than dictate to him our plans. So what does that look like? Well, as Jeremiah told the exiles, they need to build houses, settle down, plant gardens, and seek the best for their city. (29:4, 7).
And so that’s what we should do. As part of holding on to hope, we settle down into our new reality, and keep seeking to fulfil the calling God has called us to, whatever our circumstances: grow in Christlikeness, make disciples of Jesus Christ, spur one another on, be rich in good works.
That can sound like a tall order. How can we achieve that? There are of course a number of things we could suggest, but I will restrict myself to making just one fundamental statement that we must hang on to above all:
We must keeping abiding in Christ (John 15)
In John 15:1, Jesus states on his famous I AM sayings: “I am the true vine.” But sometimes we miss the second half of that verse, where Jesus says: “my Father is the Gardener.” In other words, what Jesus is really saying that he and his Father have a strong and intimate relationship – the kind where the Father shows tenderness and care towards the Son, as a Gardener that cares for the Vine. That is made clear later on in places like verse 9, where Jesus states clearly that the Father loves him. This is also made explicit at the end of his little speech in 17:24.
Why might that be important? Because in verse 9, Jesus says “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” In other words, the divine love that God the Father has lavished on God the Son is the same divine love that Jesus now wants to lavish on us. Can you imagine that? This love is a love that is never fickle. It is immense and free. And it is available to us.
And that love comes to us when we are in Christ. And so that’s why throughout John 15, Jesus is always urging us to remain or abide in him. As branches, we must abide in the vine. That love can only flow through us when we are attached to Christ.
What does it mean to abide? Verse 10 ties it to obedience. It simply means listening to Jesus. Now the danger here is that this could easily devolve to the kind of works-righteousness or outward religion that Jesus has been condemning in the Sermon of the Mount series that we have been going through over the last few months. That’s not what Jesus is getting at, as if busyness in maintaining so-called “Christian activities” or “spiritual disciplines” is the key to abiding. Those activities or disciplines are certainly helpful and even necessary. However, we must keep in mind that the goal is not the activities or disciplines themselves. It is to know, love, trust and obey Christ. It is to stay plugged in to him. After all, that’s what branches of a vine would naturally do: stay connected. That’s what abiding is about.
So even in this time where we cannot be fully connected to one another, let’s make sure to stay connected to Christ. For hear these words of Jesus, and see what his purpose is: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
Where we are up to
- The Ethernet in the main church hall is finally up and working.
- The raw video footage for our S.O.P has been shot and is currently being edited by a team. This will help inform us what to do and expect once in-person gatherings resume.
- The KEC leadership has agreed to fix September 13th as the date of our re-opening. This is to give adequate time to the A/V and usher team to make sure they are thoroughly prepared. We will try as much as possible to adhere to this date.
Love in Christ,
BEM KUCHING EVANGELICAL CHURCH