There are a couple scriptures we quote often about gathering together.
The first one that comes to mind is Matthew 18:20 where Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them."
There's something special about gathering together. It's inspiring. There's even a sense of the Lord's presence when believers are in each other's presence. When I surveyed our congregation last week you confirmed this. We're ready to gather again for worship. Many of us just can't wait.
I'm sure you're aware that this Monday, May 4, Florida officially enters Phase One of the reopening plan. For us to open we need to be able to maintain strict distancing protocols. We're also mindful that half of us are supposed to continue sheltering in place until after Phase Two. We will try not to make any last minute decisions, but I don't see us needing to give more than a week's notice so just stay tuned. And we will continue to meet online at https://sarasotacommunity.online.church.
Our decision is to be prudent and patient, but our desire is to gather! "Where two or three are gathered" Jesus is in the midst of us! So gathering is like a "gravity" that affects our decisions, as it should.
But did you know that comment in Matthew 18 was about prayer? One verse before that, in verse 19 Jesus says, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven." And then he says, verse 20, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
The context is prayer. As we desire to be together, let it move us to pray not only for, but with each other. We can gather in the Spirit, even when far apart. But there's something about being able to agree together in real time about what we're praying for, so let's do that.
We've been hosting noon prayer meetings via Zoom. Next week, rather than just having a noon prayer meeting I want us to meet in groups of two and three for prayer. In its simplest form, call someone just to pray with them. If you haven't done that before, you might start with a text, "Hey, can I give you a call just to pray with you for a few minutes?" And then do it. Jesus said, "Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
If that was true, what would you ask for? Talk about what you'd like the Father to do, find agreement, then ask him together.
In our noon prayer meetings we've been agreeing in prayer about individuals who are sick or have lost income, but also that the gospel would reach into every home, and that people would come to faith. Agree about that together!
But don't be afraid to get personal either. The context of this Matthew 18 passage is actually about helping people get rid of sin in their lives. In verse 18 Jesus says: "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." And that's when he says that if two of us agree it will be done, and if two or three gather he is here with us.
It reminds me of the other "gathering" passage we think of. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we read: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Together, those two "gathering" passages call us to prayer and encouragement. Invite someone to pray with you. And if someone invites you, accept their invitation. Encourage each other by praying together. Pray that whatever needs to be bound would be bound, and whatever needs to let go would let go. Ask God for it. Pray it for each other individually, but also for us as a church, and for the people of our community here.
We will gather again, and we are deciding what all that means. Who will we be and what will we do when we get together again? Surely we will not be the same, will we? Surely this is a time to bind what should be bound, and let go of what should be let go of, isn't it?
Encourage each other. Pray for each other. The Lord is right here in our midst, and the Father will do what we agree upon in prayer.
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.