“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
This year at Woodland Church is the year of community. “Walk with us as we walk with Jesus.” That’s what we like to say. We want to move beyond superficial community and into deep community where we can be honest with one another and share in each other’s presence. Of course, all of this is rooted in God, who enters into community with us and invites us into community with him. We see this nowhere more strongly than in the incarnation. The Son of God became man so that he might be with us. Our community is founded upon that.
So what do we do when we can’t be together? What do we do when we can no longer gather together as the people of God for worship, or gather together in each others’ homes for community groups? How do we still have community when we can’t commune with one another?
One of the amazing truths of the Christian faith is that we are united by more than physical proximity. In fact, our unity isn’t something that we create at all. It is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, a divine reality. “Christian community means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. There is no Christian community that is more than this, and none that is less than this… Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (Life Together). In other words, we are a community not because of anything we do or have done; we are a community because of what Christ has done. Nothing could be more durable.
That means that even as we experience this physical separation and the loss of the joy of gathering together for worship under the Word, nothing fundamental to our community can be lost. In fact, only that which was superficial can be stripped away. “A life together under the Word will stay healthy only when it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society…but instead understands itself as being part of the one, holy, universal, Christian church, sharing through its deeds and suffering in the hardships and struggles and promise of the whole church” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together). Now is the time to lean in, to draw closer to one another, not through the physical presence of one with another, but through the spiritual reality of Christ, for “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
So what does that mean practically? First, it means drawing nearer to the link between us, to Christ Jesus in the Word. Our staff will provide a daily reading for you and your family to read out loud to one another. This will have us all reading the same portions of the Word every morning and every evening. Second, we will provide short prayers and mediations to go along with the readings. Now is the time to have those conversations about the deep things of life. Third, we will have a worship service at our regular time on Sunday mornings (10:30am) that will be broadcast on the internet, so you can join us for worship from your home as a family. (Look for more information to come.)
Fourth, it means repentance. Have we taken for granted the good gifts of God? Have we looked at the privileges of gathering together for worship as a given? Have we thought the Christian life together a burden and a hassle, something for which we have no more time? Or worse yet, have we thought ourselves righteous and good Christians for always being there? Now is the time to repent of our sloth and our lukewarmness. Likewise, it is the time to repent of our pride, and time for each to look again at the good gifts of God and to thank God for them.
Won’t you join us?