“And he left [the Synagogue] and went to the house of a man named Titius hJustus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
The news came down on Thursday afternoon. I was getting ready to take my boys to their first practice of the flag football season, and then I was to attend a board meeting that night. As I walked outside to load up the car, I discovered 15 kids from the neighborhood had descended upon our property.
It is then I learned that the boys’ flag football season had been suspended, that my board meeting was cancelled, and that the kids’ spring break had started immediately (and perhaps indefinitely).
My schedule had been swept clean, and I was able to be present to the people right next to me.
That evening, I met some new kids in the neighborhood, our neighbors congregated in the front yard discussing which grocery store would be the least “crazy,” and we chatted without the time crunch of the next event pulling us from each other.
Then I remembered one of the (numerous) tag-lines of Waypoint: a church for the over-scheduled and overburdened. The “shutting down” of our culture’s major institutions has afforded each one of us the opportunity to be present to our neighbor.
My sense of calling to leave the “church” in order to be the church came from Paul’s experience in Corinth.
Paul had been living with a couple and preaching in the synagogue—the center of Corinth’s religious institutionalism. He discovered over time that his labor was fruitless and rather burdensome. As a result, he left the synagogue to move next door.
By going into the home of Titius Justus, a radical shift began to emerge within Corinth. So much so that eventually Paul’s adversary—the ruler of the synagogue—came to faith and was baptized by Paul.
If you have a red letter Bible you will notice that one of the last recorded words of Jesus Christ appear in this story. The Lord gave Paul words of reassurance:
“Do not be afraid but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Perhaps these words are what we need to hear.
“Do not be afraid”—Fear is the opposite of faith and pulls us from being present. Worry and anxiety can creep in so it takes an intentional effort to focus on the Lord’s promises during times of uncertainty.
“Keep on speaking and do not be silent”—Though we may need to be physically disconnected for a time, do not become relationally and spiritually distant from people. Keep speaking the hope you have in Christ.
“For I am with you.”—Even if you feel isolated, the promise of Jesus Christ is that you are never alone. The God who created the heavens and the earth invaded our lives as Christ and promised to send his Spirit—the counselor—to be among us always.
“No one will attack you to harm you”—Notice the subtly of Jesus’ words. No one will attack TO HARM you. Though this virus may attack you, knowing that nothing, even death, can separate you from God’s eternal love means that He can even make the most miserable of situations redemptive.
“For I have many in this city who are my people.”—Therefore, be aware of the people who are around you. Notice your neighbors. Be present. Be especially present to the unnoticed. To the elderly in your neighborhood; to the medical professionals working double-time; to the investment bankers working triple-time; to their spouses and family; to those not working and wondering how they are going to make it. These are God’s people in need of God’s reassurance.
So while you may not be able to gather at the synagogue for the foreseeable future, you are still able to be the church.
One of Waypoint’s other (numerous) tag-lines is: “We want to draw people one step closer to Jesus in order to push them one step further out in mission and service in His name.” With your schedule empty, what is one way Jesus is pushing you to do something?