As I sit down to write these words, I'm struggling with the thoughts in my head. It has been five months since we began to address the concerns of COVID-19. Whether you call it a quarantine, safe-at-home order, or self-isolation, these five months have been filled with challenge and change. Many have had troubles like they've never had before. In the early days, unprecedented food scarcity plagued my local markets. I waited in line and hoped to find what I most needed. I told my sons things I've never heard myself say before: This is what you'll eat because this is what we have. Almost overnight, it seemed a well had dried up.
Despite the struggles, I'll admit that there have been some welcome changes. There are some norms I'm glad to be rid of. We don't seem to be in the same hurry that we once were, especially here in California where it seems people are always on the go. The last five months have allowed us to collectively slow our pace, even halting our pace from time to time. We've read books, made home improvements, and played games with our families.
There are also things I'm sad to have lost. My older son was counted in the 1% of our national population who graduated high school this year without the traditions we've held for decades. I recall my senior year with fondness, and I'm sorry that his ended so anticlimactically.
And then there are those practices that fall in to the grey area. I find the majority of my life does not fall neatly into black or white, but lingers in the continuum of grey. Please hear my heart as much as my words. I miss church. I do. But, I've had this feeling for months now that we've desperately needed to let go of some of the things we do, or at very minimum, how we do them. Without the routine of Sunday morning, Wednesday night, monthly specials, I've asked myself why do we do what we do as the church? Why do I do what I do as a part of the church? Do our actions entice the common man or applaud the Christian elite? How would God design the church if He were starting it today? I cannot answer that because He is not starting the church today. However, I can look at how the early church behaved:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)
I've been stuck on the first line of this passage for years: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship. I understand being devoted to teaching, but I could not wrap my head around being devoted to fellowship. I'm starting to wonder if fellowship is one of the things we've been getting terribly wrong in the church. If other believers are anything like me (and I'm actually praying that I'm the only one), we've made shallow a very deep word. Too often I've reduced fellowship to gathering. We are tempted to call every church event that isn't a "worship service" or "Bible study" or "ministry opportunity" fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is one that I've heard so often it's almost trite: KOINONIA. Lord, forgive me.
This thing we call fellowship is part of our sacred experience. It is so much more than potlucks or picnics. Fellowship has to do with sharing, participating, contributing, and unity. As I think about this idea, I'm realizing my local church recently shared fellowship by passing out these communion baskets to the families of our church. More than just the teamwork of purchasing supplies, assembling baskets, and distributing to 40+ homes, I can't help but think about the fellowship of communion. These glass cups are decades old and, before being shelved away in favor of their disposable plastic versions, offered the chance to unite with God to countless believers. When we take communion we remember Christ and celebrate His sacrifice.
Like these communion cups, have we traded the long lasting means of sharing Christ for a cheap, disposable version? Have we hidden away something of value for something easier? I've asked a lot of questions today. In my heart I feel that these questions aren't for me to answer, at least not at this time.