6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
“How long, O Lord? … Are you really not going to tell us the date?”
We are about two months into the measures designed to face the Corona Virus. I did not expect to spend two months of our lives living this way. That’s not even the most disturbing part for me. What really overloads my thinking is looking toward the future trying to determine some distinct marker, out there somewhere, that will allow us to make wise decisions on returning to “normal.”
I’m not complaining. My life is an easy, comfortable life even under these strange circumstances. I’m describing the odd feeling that I’ve never faced any decision making quite like this as a leader. I desire to know something solid—something factual on which I can pin a decision and when I reach for it, I grasp nothing but air.
These are clearly times of lessons on faith for normally pretty comfortable believers. I have to keep reminding myself God may use us but God is not dependent on us. My process of remembrance goes something like this: Step #1 Why do I need to know what I FEEL I need to know? Step #2 What will happen if I don’t know? Step #3 Can God deal with that if it does happen? If I make it to “Step #3” I can usually smile a bit at my own, natural arrogance.
My reason for bringing this up now is to remind us that the FBC Elders are praying, thinking and deciding not only about the seemingly unanswerable questions that impact them and their families but also for our “church family.” The elders are trying to see and live by “eyes of faith” in decisions that impact all of us. I suspect you can recognize this is not always easy to do these days. We don’t all always agree exactly on “next steps.” Sometimes we even get a bit frustrated. None of this is helped by communicating virtually much of the time. None of the decisions feel very “happy-clappy” wonderful. We even know and understand that some of you may not agree with the outcomes of our deliberations.
In our meeting this week we focused on the potential for re-opening the FBC facilities to groups and to worshipping together on Sundays. Among other things we addressed our ecclesiology (theology from Scripture about being Jesus’ church), authority (theology from Scripture about Jesus’ church relating to the human authorities), medical information and its sources, the logistics of re-opening and finally the emotional aspects of deciding and of re-opening or not.
I’m telling you this, in detail, because I do want you to know the love and the seriousness these guys put into making choices that impact us all. Ultimately, there still is no great “answer” shining through to eyes of flesh or faith. We call again on all of us to trust the Lord and be patient with one another and the circumstances.
In this meeting, we decided it is not yet wise to re-open the facilities. It is probably not helpful to guess at a date that we might. We will re-open them as soon as we conclude it is the wise and thus loving thing to do for our body—when we think it will best demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ and image God to those who are watching.
Meanwhile we are delighted as we see God working to “bubble-up” many different ways for FBC folks to connect in worship, teaching and relationship. Right now, many of these are virtual. If you haven’t yet found a place, please hit the website www.fbccs.org and dig down into “gatherings.” You will find emails to make contact with groups that are meeting online.
We are also watching and considering a more formal formation of some small groups that would actually meet together for worship and teaching around the city. We think it best to give us all some time to practice social distancing and relationships between those who do “distance” and those who don’t before we start forming these groups. Maybe by the time we learn to lovingly accept one another in that different choice we will not have to do it in these meetings. The temperature is rising so meeting outdoors, with lots of space, is becoming an option as well.
By-the-way, in the “pirate church,” no one has to wait for “orders” from us to meet this way. We ask, if what you do is even informally connected with FBC that you will do it wisely and, for now, do it practicing social distancing even if you are not a fan of that.
You “social-types,” please make it your ministry to think about others who may not reach out very well. Make some phone calls if you can. All of us, these are great days for our witness to salvation in Jesus Christ. Many people are scared as their foundations of prosperity and veneer of control are not looking very healthy. The world—the whole, entire world—can change faster than most ever dreamed. If you know the One who made the whole world the potential for peace in the chaos is far greater. Tell people about Jesus. They need Him just as we do!
Meanwhile, no need to be “staring blankly at the sky” looking for the answer in cloud formations. This “answer” won’t come from there like that. It is time to get on with His mission under the circumstances in which He has left us. He will be with us!
In other news, in case you have wondered, the sale of our campus is still moving forward. The process has slowed as the city approval mechanisms have ground to a halt because of the pandemic. However, it seems the sale will happen. Then again, these days, who really wants to say they know what will happen even a few months from now??!!