Today we enter Phase One of the governor's Reopen Florida plan. For us that means we are planning to bring the worship team back together to lead worship from our worship center. I hope everyone finds encouragement in that, even if we don't meet together this Sunday.
We are watching how this first week of Phase One goes before deciding when we will reopen our campus to public activities. Phase One calls for "strict distancing protocol," and then Phase Two calls for "moderate distancing protocol." Meeting under Phase One poses some difficulty. Meeting under Phase Two, not so much. Again, we are not living in fear, but choosing to be cooperative, and exercise prudence, believing it in no way jeopardizes our faith to do so. But we are also looking forward to gathering again. To be together and encourage each other is part of the vitality of our faith. We will meet again soon, Lord willing. I'll let you know.
As we prepare, I want you to pray with me about the opportunities in front of us. It's like a reset button has been pushed, and we get to decide what we do now.
Think about how many times God's people have gotten to start over. The most obvious is the Flood where Noah and his family got to replant humanity. But even before that, when Cain killed Able, he was sent away to a new land to start over. And before that, when Adam and Eve sinned, they were sent out of the garden to start over.
But still Noah is the one we think about. God said he was tired of contending with humanity and its sin so he pressed the reset button. Took a few samples of what he had created and wiped everything else out. Then he put those samples on a mountain top and said, "Start over." And one of the first things we see is Noah getting drunk.
A few generations later and Abraham was called to leave his land and go start over. He had kids and they had kids and they had kids, and they all ended up in Egypt where they had more and more kids. They ended up enslaved to the Egyptians so God brought Moses to push a reset button for them. They had opportunity to go straight into the Promised Land, but they balked, so they wandered the wilderness until that whole generation had died.
Then God pushed the reset button again, and brought them into the Promised Land. They established themselves but during that time there was no king and everyone did as they thought best. And it wasn't best. They had priests and judges, but they sinned and sinned and sinned.
Eventually God pushed the reset button and brought a king, and another king, and another. The kings were good, then bad, then good, then bad, and so on and so on. There has never been a time that God's people were not encumbered by sin.
Finally, God pushed the reset button by sending his son -- by coming in the flesh. When he conquered death he pushed the biggest reset button of them all. And here we are living by faith, no longer under the tutelage of the Law, and no longer enslaved by our fear of death.
But even after Jesus, God has continued to push the reset button for us. Pentecost, the scattering of the Church by persecution, the evangelism of the Gentiles, the missionary journeys of Paul, the development of Christendom. In fact, if we look all the way back to the Flood we can see a major reset roughly every 500 years: Noah (2500 BC), Abraham (2000), Moses (1500), David (1000), the Exiles return (500), Jesus/The Church (0), The First East-West Schism and Reconciliation (500AD), the Great East-West Schism (1000), the Reformation (1500), and now here we are (2000). With each one we can look back at things that were lost and gained, some of it negative and some of it positive. And each was opportunity to do a new thing.
I don't think this Coronavirus Pandemic is on par with the Flood or the Reformation. But it is opportunity to do a new thing. Even if it can be hard to let go of old things, there's something refreshing about a new start.
This is on my mind and in my prayers, and I invite you to consider it with me: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses," meaning, people who have been faithful through time, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)
Pray for clear discernment about this. It's the right question to be asking. And if you get any sense of godly conviction or passion about it, like what you would be most energized to throw yourself into as the mission for your life in these times, let me know what you think by emailing me.
With love and faith,
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.