Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
What is the thing that you have missed most during the Covid restrictions of the past 18 months? The answers will be many and varied but I have to say that for myself it has been that we have not been able to meet face to face in our Sunday services and Growth Groups and in particular have not been able to join together, in person, at the Lord’s Table.
We are not told what situation caused the writer to urge his readers to
….not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing
but apparently there were some who had decided that such gatherings were not a priority and therefore were absent from the meetings of the body.
This morning I risk getting myself into hot water as I address this situation as it impacts CFC but in so doing it is my desire that we each examine ourselves as to the importance of being together.
As lockdown began we were denied the ability so to meet and, albeit grudgingly, we accepted it but I am disturbed that as restrictions are lifted or at least eased we still have between 15 and 20 individuals or groups of the body still seeking fellowship through a screen.
The reasons are many. Genuine fear of exposing oneself to the risk of catching Covid. Because I cannot sing. Because I cannot chat before or after the service. Because my Sunday mornings are much less stressful when I don’t have to go out of the house. Because I can relax with my tea or coffee while spectating the service. Because I can access may different services from other churches if I so choose. etc. etc. etc.
These are not, apart from because I cannot sing, reasons I have heard expressed by CFC Partners but it is not hard to sense them as we watch each other on Zoom and that very phrase ‘watch each other on Zoom’ is I believe significant. The Zoom screen although it has been a blessing in many ways does not make for meaningful fellowship and relationship and this is not what the gathering of the body is meant to be.
Neither is it a problem unique to CFC, far from it. Almost all church leaders with whom I have spoken are deeply concerned as to how they woo their members back into real living relationships.
To meet with others in prayer this week, in person, has been an amazing blessing. To have met round the Lord’s Table likewise has been a blessing but the spaces at the table or at the Prayer Meetings or our Sunday Services have been cause for great sadness as one and another have been missing.
Of course there are for each absent family member, specific and personal reasons but let us each examine ourselves as to whether they are sufficient to keep us apart.
Tomorrow in the final part of this series we shall pick up on ‘encouraging one another’ and being present is one of the greatest encouragements that each of us can give to one another.