The Scattered Church
Holy Saturday, some call it Silent Saturday, is in reference to the day between Good Friday and the Resurrection. On this day, the disciples and other followers of Jesus, not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, huddled in the upper room that they had rented to celebrate the Passover, (kind of like renting an Airbnb for a party in another city for your daughter’s graduation weekend). When everything went a different direction than what they expected, the only place to gather was the upper room.
Here they sat in silence. Here they sat in fear. Here they sat in disbelief. Here they sat in disturbed wonder. Here they sat. It was not strategic. There was no vision. Their souls were deeply disturbed within them.
Most of us know the rest of the story, and most of us don’t spend time in wallowing in the doubt, the fear, or the silence of Holy Saturday. We live on this side of the Resurrection. We live on this side of Pentecost. We live on this side of Scriptures being written. We have a different perspective. Or, do we?
I think in context of today’s crisis, we are all probably understanding the anxiousness and disturbance of disciples a little bit better than we did last year. Some are living in fear. Others just can’t wait to gather once again. Even the most reclusive introvert is starting to miss the community of the saints. Sure, we have technology that allows us to stay connected, but it just isn’t the same as a warm embrace, a firm handshake, or even a holy kiss!
But, let’s jump ahead to a several months after Pentecost. The followers of Christ are on the run because great persecution has broken out in Jerusalem. No longer is the body of Christ in one place anymore. They must be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever they are scattered around the modern world. Wherever the Roman roads would take them, they took the salvation of Jesus, the hope of His resurrection, and the power of His Holy Spirit. Some have argued that without the persecution, there is no explosion of the church. Without the persecution, Saul would not have met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Without the persecution, Thomas would not have gone to India. Without the persecution, the Way would have remained a sect of Judaism and we would still be praying to Jerusalem several times per day.
The scattering of the Church became the catalyst for the explosion of the Church. Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem for my Spirit, then you will go to the nations!” Ten days later, they were filled. What took them so long to leave Jerusalem? Sometimes we need a crisis to wake us up – even those filled with the Holy Spirit. What if we viewed this crisis as a wake-up call? What if this crisis is intended by God to scatter us to our neighborhoods?
Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, Insurrection Day, Resurrection Day, we will be gathering virtually through YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom. Many of us are tempted to think that Easter is a holier Sunday than most and some may even be tempted to think that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, (does every other day belongs to me?). Let us be reminded that every Sunday is a reminder that Jesus has risen – He has risen indeed! We need Sundays to remind us of this truth throughout the year. So, though we are gathering virtually, in real life, we have been scattered to our neighborhoods.
I for one have been challenged by the irony of this so-called “social distancing.” I have had more meaningful conversations with my immediate neighbors in the last three weeks than I have had in fifteen years! Sure, we stay in our own space – but maybe that gives them a safe space to have significant conversations. I have for years tried to engage my neighbors in spiritually significant conversations, only to be deflected into conversation about the weather, gardening tips, neighborhood gossip, etc.
What if this season exists to scatter the Church – to move believers who have been with Jesus and filled with His Spirit toward a world that desperately needs hope? We will not give up meeting together in one place; that time will come again. I was encouraged by a historian this week who spoke of previous pandemics throughout Church history – and the Church ALWAYS returns to meeting together. I am not worried about HarvestDowntown. We will continue meeting together and we have been blessed with incredibly creative ministers that are constantly pushing us into new ways of doing this while still being good citizens.
So, let us take the long view of this season and learn from it. Let us not give into conspiracy theories and fear mongering. Let us not look to the government, the CDC, the WHO, or even medical professionals to save us. Let us reach for Jesus, let us cling to Him who first took hold of us, and let us encourage one another to love and good deeds. Let us embrace being scattered to our neighborhoods and sing all the louder from our living rooms of the Risen King – The Sun of Righteousness, who rises with healing in His wings! We are HarvestDowntown, and this Easter we are not restricted to merely meeting at 411 North Weber, but we are going to be meeting at 125 different addresses throughout our city! May we be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth.