By: John Bryant
As I write this, COVID-19 has landed like the alien invasion it has become - invisible, unexpected, tragic. The usual pattern of life has not been made more difficult, but rendered null and void. Everything’s closed and we are told to stay indoors. The stories that run our lives, the schedules that put us in cars and jets and send us across the world have been brought to a close by what we cannot see. We’ve been encouraged that the best way to love our neighbor is to stay inside and not see or touch anyone.
I find, more than anything, that the idea of “doing” has been taken from us. There is very little we can do, very little, it seems, that can be done. We may try to take things online, to transfer our busy ministries into new technological formats. But at some point we stop and realize we are no longer, now, people who “do.” Who are we when there is nothing we can do, and nothing, it seems that can be done?
If your work is like mine and the primary gift you feel you can offer is your time and presence, then maybe you are especially thrown back on yourself. I am humbled. I cannot shake hands. I cannot walk into psych wards and conduct Bible studies. I can’t share coffee. I had made my life so simple, I thought. “Be consistent,” I said. “Be present.” Now, in many ways, I can’t even give the little that I thought I could.
But, I find myself drawn by the Spirit into a different posture. Not just temporarily, but for, I hope the rest of my life. We are not people who do. We are people to whom something has been done. The ultimate difference between those who are God’s people and those who are not God’s people is what has been done but what has been received, what has been heard. A Christian is simply someone who heard good news and has held out his hands for mercy.
There is, of course, much to do. But a Christian is, primarily and always, someone who hears, someone to whom mercy has been given. If this is what we offer, the same mercy given us in Christ’s name, then may we offer it first by receiving it for ourselves, now more than ever.
And when we meet again, and when, through all this, we find new ways to meet and gather and encourage, let us meet as those who have come to hear a Word we cannot speak to ourselves, a Mercy we could not have invented, but a Mercy that will then set aside the few things we can do to the glory of the Lord and not for glory of doing. Amen.
By: Lauren Zawatski
“Why me?” I recently asked myself. Sometimes I ask this question as a complaint, throwing a whole pity party for one. But this time, I felt more bewildered. How could God, the God of the stars, sun, universe, and all that lies between, be so kind to me? Why is it that even in the middle of my chaos He looks upon me with favor?
2019 held many challenging times for me. It was often, if I may, “a hot mess.” Yet, you might have read a post that I had written for our blog in the fall, about the Lord’s faithfulness to me through answering a decade old prayer of mine to go to France. Over these past few months, the Lord has answered yet another prayer of mine - one that has also been years in the making.
So I continued to ask myself: why? Why would the Lord answer my prayer now, even after just answering another? The last year had been such a tough one, and I felt as if I had a long way to go in my next season of healing and growth. I certainly didn’t expect God to answer a major request of mine again - not with the muddled state that I was in!
Then, one evening as I continued to wonder why, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me: “Lauren, this is just like how even when you were still a sinner, I died for you. Even when you were still a mess, I chose you.”
That certainly floored me! I began to feel the warm tears pooling as the Lord reminded me once more of the beautifully simple, straightforward truth of the Gospel. Romans 5:6-8 describes it so well:
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
This is a truth that you and I must daily, even moment to moment, remind ourselves of. How quickly do we turn back to our “default” mindset of working our way to God, hoping that if we’re good enough, if we do enough - only THEN will God care for us. We don’t need to get all of our ducks in a row to know that God hears us. We have the confidence that can only be gained through Christ’s shed blood. He cares for us the same in all seasons and circumstances of life and knows what we need before we even ask. How glorious it is that God truly is our compassionate and caring Father!
By: Greg Miller
Psalm 23:5 says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Did you ever think about what that verse means? It really sounds strange. Who would sit down to eat a meal when their enemies are surrounding them?
The verse is intended to communicate that God's people are so protected and provided for that they don't have to worry, no matter what is going on around them. It is a beautiful picture of being at peace with God and his people in unusual circumstances. Sharing a meal with the Lord and His people is powerful!
Recently, I had the privilege of serving communion to some of our Uncommon Grounds personnel. Sadly, that doesn't happen very often. It was a very spiritual experience for me. To share the Supper of the Lord with people who are in the spiritual trenches day in and day out was very moving. It reminded me of the One who holds us together - that we are all His and are at peace with Him and with one another.
Some of Church Army's work takes place out on the streets. To be able to bring the Lord's Table out to broken people in a lost and hurting world is a powerful act. It declares God's peace and provision to people who don't often feel it. One of our Church Army officers had the privilege of bringing the Lord's Table onto the field of battle in Vietnam. What a picture! There in the midst of death, soldiers stopped to be reminded of the peace and protection of the Lord. It didn't mean that all of them would survive the battle - but all who belong to the Lord would survive into eternal life.
We usually celebrate communion inside the church - and that is good! But having the Lord prepare a table even in the presence of our enemies presents a more powerful picture. As Church Army, we want to take Jesus with us wherever we go - in word, deed, and sacrament - so that all may know of Jesus' peace and protection in good times and bad. What a blessing!