Like most (if not all) of you, the past few weeks are days which I will never forget. COVID-19 will be regarded as one of those events in history that will change what is considered “normal” going forward. Human beings are creatures of habit and most people do not like their schedules being turned upside down. However, this pandemic serves as a stark reminder of how quickly “normal” can be uprooted. As a pastor, the inability to gather corporately with my church family on Sunday grieves me. As much as I am longing for the return back to normalcy, I am thankful for the Lord teaching me anew of why He instituted a rhythm for the people of God when it comes to corporate worship and life.
At times, we can resent the rhythm that the Lord mandates and governs when it comes to church. In pastoral ministry, Sundays are a long day for me that include two sermons, answering questions, fellowship, counseling, and other activities. Sundays require a lot of energy and focus. The burdens of our flocks are our burdens as well as our own personal burdens that we carry. It can seem overwhelming at times! For all of that though, the rhythm of the Lord’s Day is a gift to us. Often, we think that we know better than the Lord. These are days for us to learn anew that the Lord indeed knows what He is doing.
The imperative of Hebrews 10:25 concerning the forsaking of the assembly feels more meaningful during these days when we cannot assemble. The Lord knows what He is doing in commanding us to gather with brothers and sisters. Christians need the communion of the saints. The local church serves as many things: refuge, family, protection, and correction. We thank God for the technology that allows us to “virtually” connect but it does nothing to substitute for hearing and seeing one another on the Lord’s Day. Those words of Paul repeated in 1 Corinthians 11 about “when the church comes together” carry more significance. The sacraments were not given to be celebrated individually but corporately. We dare not substitute anything else for the rhythm Christ gave to His church.
Are you longing for the rhythm again? We can despise the rhythm at times and wonder if it is not a little old-fashioned, puritanical, and demanding or even a bit monotonous. The Lord knows what He is doing and He is teaching us just how much we need the rhythm. There is a reason the Lord instituted one day in seven to be consecrated for physical rest, corporate worship, and spiritual refreshment. Perhaps, before we go about criticizing the Puritans for their excessiveness regarding the observance of the Sabbath, we will cherish more deeply the gift Sunday truly is. Hopefully, a renewed understanding of simple worship regulated by the Scriptures will come forth out of this. The people of God do not need “pizazz” and “pop” when it comes to worship. The saints need the ordinary means of grace publicly ministered to them by their pastors and made effectual in their hearts by the Spirit.
I am a pastor who subscribes to the Second London Confession and am more of an ordinary means of grace Sabbatarian than most pastors in my area. However, I confess that my heart did not cherish the rhythm as I should have. In the course of this pandemic and time of quarantine, a dear sister in our church reminded me of how I would speak about the possibility of us one day losing the ability to gather on Sundays as we did normally. I challenged the congregation to think about how they would respond to such a situation. Well, in God’s providence, we are experiencing such days. None of us except the Sovereign King know when this season will end. One thing is for sure: we need a return to and embrace of the rhythm given to us by Christ.