At the start of lockdown I heard a pastor refer to this time in our lives as a ‘forced Sabbath’, a season for us to slow down, step back from the rush of modern life and to have more time. And having more time has been nice in some ways.
I have been able to spend more time playing guitar than I normally would and learn sick Lindsey Buckingham riffs like Never Going Back Again. But I have also struggled with having time away from friends, family, the young people I love to work with so much and especially my church community. For me, lockdown started off feeling like a Sabbath but now feels more like being in exile. I feel far away from the people I love and my God community. Yet there is hope in this.
One of my favourite Bible stories is from the time the Israelites spent in exile from Daniel 3; The image of gold and the blazing furnace. Quick summary: the absolute legends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago (Rack, Shack and Benny for any Veggie Tales fans out there), refuse to bow to an idol made of gold. Their punishment is to be burnt alive, but the fire doesn’t touch them and in fact, right in that moment, God is visibly there with them and they are saved.
This story shows us how we are not alone even when we are in exile. That even if we were to be thrown into a blazing furnace, God would still be with us.
He is the same God who gave up everything and went to the cross for us. He will never abandon us. Another legend, Corrie Ten Boom once said “there is no pit so deep that God’s love has not gone deeper still”.
But I hear you asking; “Doug, why is this blog called never going back again? It sounds like you really want to go back”
Because if the news during lockdown has shown me anything, it’s that we should definitely not go back to the world that we were in before lockdown. One where a man screaming for eight minutes and 46 seconds “I can’t breathe!” might be considered just another tragedy. Where we celebrate slave traders with statues and don’t care for the vulnerable in our society. And to the church, the church needs to get back on the forefront of fighting for justice again. As another total legend MLK once said quoting Amos 5:24 “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never ending stream”
“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never ending stream”
Furthermore, the church needs to build on what has been achieved in lockdown. HTB reported that it has had the largest Alpha attendance ever! Church attendance for online services have also apparently increased since lockdown. When we are allowed to celebrate in person again, we need to keep services online as an easy way for people into church, and a way we can still reach those who will can’t make it to Church on a Sunday.
But will we not just go back to the way it was? The Israelites did after their exile, won’t we too? Well, we don’t have to. An amazing thing about the Church is that we are part of a new kingdom. One where we are no longer citizens of this world, but citizens of heaven. We have our own law and our own King! We should not conform to ways of this world, but follow the way of heaven, the way of Jesus or as John 14 might describe it, the way of The Way.
I’m never going back again. Are you?