Update: We will resume in-person worship services on Sunday, May 24.  Please click here for more information.

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Longing for God

 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”—Psalm 63:1-4

David wrote this psalm as a reflection of his time in the wilderness of Judah, most likely when he was on the run from his son Absalom.  David had invited his son back to Jerusalem only for Absalom to plot a coup to take over the throne.  It is as David is out in the wilderness that he feels the desperation of his condition. The thing that troubles him most is not that he has to sleep on the hard ground instead of his cozy bed.  It’s not that he is missing the feasts he would enjoy in his banqueting hall.  No, what troubles David most is that he has been removed from the house of worship.  He used to go to the sanctuary to worship, but circumstances are different now.  He is no longer able to gather with God’s people for worship at the appointed place.  His heart longs for God communion with God.  What will he do?  He will continue to worship God!  Whether David is in Zion or in the desert makes no difference; he will still praise the LORD. 

I think David’s experience and his instruction is exactly what we need today.  As you know, our governor has issued a “stay at home” order that emphasizes the need for continued social distancing in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  If you read the order you will have noticed that attending religious services is considered as an “essential service.”  This has generated a number of questions regarding whether or not we can or should begin to congregate once again for public worship.  Your officers have met to discuss these matters and our best understanding, consistent with the president’s recommendations and those of our state, is that we need to continue the suspension of all in person gatherings and ministries of the church including worship services.  In following the advice of our governing authorities we have extended that suspension through the end of April.  I will be honest and say that while I know nothing for certain, I am beginning to believe that we may have to continue with these virtual church meetings past April and into May and perhaps June.  I do not say that to discourage you but to prepare you for what may lie ahead. 

I realize that this is a great disappointment to each of you.  Believe me when I say that I am heartbroken over this.  I desire nothing more than gathering together with each of you on the Lord’s Day to worship our great God and Savior.  The Lord’s Day is truly the highlight of my week and as a pastor I feel lost on Sunday when I’m unable to meet together with you.  But dear friends, take heart and hear what David says in Psalm 63.  Even though we are unable to gather together in person we are still able to worship God.  His steadfast love is better than life.  His steadfast love is his committed, covenant-keeping love that never fails and never diminishes.  Our circumstances may change but his love is changeless.  Our circumstances may change but our response of worship must not change.  The LORD is still on his throne and he is still worthy of our devotion.  And guess what?  He is still able to feed and nourish your soul (Ps. 63:5-7).  So let us cling to him and rejoice in him no matter what!

I want to inform you of some things we are currently doing and a few things we are going to try and do to minister to you during this time of prolonged isolation.

  • We have been and will continue to record sermons and post them to our website in time for Sunday. You may have noticed that we were able to add a video of both sermons this past Sunday.  We will continue to do so.  You can access the morning sermon series on Mark and Pastor Knox’s evening series on Habakkuk from our website.  In addition, we are going to be experimenting with the possibility of live-streaming our worship services (though we will not have that in place by this Sunday).  Stay tuned for more information about that.
  • We will continue to teach two Sunday School classes on Sunday morning via Zoom. The feedback I have received has been very positive and I’ve been extremely encouraged to see so many of your faces as you’ve signed on each Sunday morning.  The login will continue to be the same as the one you used last week.  If you have any questions please contact the church office.
  • There will be a virtual prayer meeting for anyone interested in participating on Sunday mornings at 8:00AM. If you would like to be a part you can contact Gordon Eldridge for how to call in.
  • Many churches are experiencing a significant drop in giving during this time. We want to encourage you to continue your regular giving during this time if you are able.  You can give safely and securely online at our website here: Online Giving.  You can also mail a check to the church. 
  • As mentioned before, your elders and deacons are working hard to stay in touch with you by phone, text, and email. If you have any specific prayer requests please be sure to share them with your officers so we can be praying for you.  Also, if you have any needs please let us know.

There are three new initiatives we are going to try in the coming weeks that I’d like to highlight for you.

  • We are going to be setting up a “virtual shepherding group” meeting between you, your shepherding elder, and me. These meetings will last no longer than 45 minutes and will be an opportunity for us to have a short devotion from Scripture, take a few prayers requests, and pray together.  Check your email for a Zoom invite and expect a phone call from your shepherding elder.
  • I’m planning to do a once a week live video devotion via Zoom. These will take place on Wednesdays at 11:00AM for anyone who would like to join.  A separate email will come with an invite.
  • Finally, we’ve been thinking of ways to connect with the children of our church during this season. I’m going to start a weekly story time with the children on Wednesdays at 10:00AM.  This will be a simple opportunity for me to read a Bible passage, pray, and read a story to the children.  We hope this will be a great encouragement to them.

Dear friends, please know that I am praying for you all during this time and I miss you all very much.  You are in my thoughts and prayers and I look forward to the day when we can come together again and lift up our hearts and voices in praise and adoration of our great and glorious God.  Until that day let me encourage you to utilize this season of isolation to foster a deeper sense of communion with God.  Read your Bible; pray without ceasing; and rejoice in the LORD!

Your Pastor & Friend,

Chad Watkins