3 thoughts from my first service back since lockdown began
Yesterday was the first church service I’ve been able to attend in person for around 6 months. Half a year!
Three things struck me:
1. The pain of social awkwardness
I’m socially awkward. I’ve made some strides but I still have little idea how to put people at ease or make small talk, or read people’s responses. Church has always been painful for me because of how much I feel that I don’t fit in, and how desperately I want to. Masks only make it harder. It’s easier to hide at home, but the Lord desires His people to keep meeting together, and I won’t grow in the dark - I’m not a mushroom!
2. The absolutely majesty of Jesus Christ
During the worship time (a lady singing and playing keyboards, we weren’t permitted to sing) it really struck me how amazing Jesus is. This world’s answers to questions are so shallow, so deficient
Jesus speaks with the authority of eternity; “they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” - Mark 1:22
He gives us what love is; “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
He gives us leadership; In this broken, relativistic, divided world that’s burning down around us, one figure in history stands tall and says “come to me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” As the world hunts for a king, a president, a strong man, some kind of political solution, Jesus says “I Am the way, I Am the truth, I Am the life”.
He gives us reality; “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1) - the Logos, the logic of God, the definition of reality, woven together by the hands and nature of the divine Son of God.
This is why I want to be with His people, even though I stick out like a sore thumb - because of how BEAUTIFUL the One is at the centre of our adoration, and because I need to exist in relationship to them to be part of His church. Trinitarian thought explains how sonship is conferred on Jesus by the nature of His eternal relationship with the Father and vice versa. Likewise, I am part of the body by being part of the body!
3. It’s His world to save
The Bible is clear that an end is coming to this age - what theologians call the “eschaton”. Now I may be wrong about this but in my opinion the lockdowns have done more harm than good and I’ve felt so conflicted about how far to go with registering my dissent (I have remained within the legislation of authority as per Romans 12/13, however a time may come when I am forced to obey God and not man as per Acts). I’ve felt tormented about what I see as the “vain philosophies” of post-modern relativism, critical race theory and neopragmatism taking people captive (Colossians 2:8). I may be wrong about this also, and if so, may God convict me. “And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:24, but whether I’m right or wrong is not the point.
The point is this : I stood in church yesterday and I realised, suddenly and powerfully, that it’s not my world to save. It’s His! “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and FOR HIM.” (Colossians 1:16, emphasis mine). The Lord is sovereign. I can lay down my head at night and trust that. I don’t need to obsess about having “the right opinions”.
My job? To be an obedient servant. To obey the One who is as I described in point 2, with the family I am united to in point 1. Yes, I am to have strong convictions rooted in scriptural-drenched thought, but I am not the saviour, and it is idolatory to view myself as such.
I need the Church
The church is the assembled people of God. I need them! I need to take communion together, remembering my sin and its only solution in the Master’s death and resurrection. I need to see new believers baptised into fellowship with us, welcomed as family. I need to sit under the preaching of ancient, unshakeable truth and be shaped on that anvil. I need my children to be surrounded by broken, fallen but Godly and redeemed people who are imperfect but facing the One who is perfection itself. I need the corporate prayer. I need the private prayer.
I can’t do it myself. I shouldn’t even try. I’m twice-dependent - on God, and on His church.
And social awkwardness? That’s not going away any time soon. Jesus doesn’t bid me “be likeable”. He bids me “come to Me”. And that’s where His people are. And I love them, because in them I see fragments of Him.