Worship in Exile
March 31, 2020

The #Coronavirus is trending more frequently than your favorite five celebrities put together. Our culture has exchanged TMZ stories for the primacy of the geeks who once made their living in the privacy of their laboratory. These are now our modern-day celebrities. It’s safe to say the experts surrounding this topic will probably consume the news cycle for the foreseeable future.

Since this is the general trend, Christians must ask, “How now shall we live?” Recently, I encouraged pastors to preach the Word on the Lord’s Day without allowing the trends to dictate the church’s agenda. The Church should be the last place where people come to educate themselves about any virus or plague. The church should be that one place where we immunize ourselves against such cultural ubiquity. What the church must provide in this time is a heavenly normalcy that affords Christians a glimpse into the holy as they experience the unholy of disease and death in the world.

Whatever the future holds, and I forbid myself from acting like a prophetic epidemiologist, we know that the future belongs to Jesus. After all, he has lived and reigned over every imaginable pestilence and plague throughout history. He was Lord then and is Lord now. Christians often forget that reality in times of crisis. It is a real danger. There is no more excellent opportunity to flex our monergistic muscles than a scenario where we envision ourselves as experts and when we can quietly act as lords over human despair.

Of course, it is right and prudent to take measures, but it is even more crucial to take good and necessary measures towards our daily actions and reactions; to honestly examine ourselves in Lenten fashion to see if we are living as Christ would have us in our day. One inevitable temptation is the predicament of tomorrow. The anxious person will worry about everything until he gets one thing right. He will worry about a thousand things, and when that worry is finally validated, he will use that event to justify his fears about the next thousand things. It’s an unhappy cycle. If the things of today are sufficient (Mat. 6), then there are sufficient things to occupy our faith today. In sum, opportunities abound in living out our faith in times of peril. Our habits and rituals can be changed; our view of the world and others can change, and we can discover in such a time of transition that our priorities have been wrong for a long time.

In many ways, we lived exilically before any of this came into being. But back then, there was no all-consuming Corona-Virus news; there was just the mundane. Back then, many of us lived flippantly and apathetic toward our Christian rituals. Times of peace more often than not provide rationales for complacency. Thus, in times of uncertainty, we must remember that usually, the best period for the church to sharpen and hone her worship skills and practices is now. Biblical history bears this out. We can think of Israel’s wilderness wandering as a time of exile. Israel had left Egypt and was preparing to enter the Promised Land. But what was Israel doing for those 40 years? She didn’t have any real cultural influence since she had no homeland. She was just a nomadic community moving through the wilderness without the certainty of tomorrow. Still, faithful Israelites carried the tabernacle with them through the desert so that corporate worship became their constant focus.        

While we may not know what tomorrow brings, we do know who controls time and space and viruses. For the Christian, this is truly an opportunity for communities to find refuge in one true city. Whether we are worshipping together or in limited numbers in seven days, God’s gift of worship is ours. Whether in exile, free from alarm or in between the times, worship is always ultimate. So, let the Christian see that the only worthy trend in this world is not the #Coronavirus but the worship of the Triune God.

Uri Brito is the Senior Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, FL. He is the editor of The Church-Friendly Family, and author of The Trinitarian Father. Uri is the founder of and contributor to Kuyperian Commentary, and is a board member of Theopolis.

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