Out of the Abundance of the Heart – Viral Update April

Being People of Substance. Doing Works of Power

Let’s get together, My Friends!

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

(Mark 1:40-41 NLT)

Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.” Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.

(Mark 5:22-24 NLT)

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.

(Mark 10:13-14 NLT)

We have been under a “stay at home order” for about a month now. The talking heads on TV have begun to prophesy that our lives will be permanently changed by the adjustments we have made to accommodate the virus. Some say we will never shake hands again. In fact, any touching will be taboo. Others prophesy that theaters and restaurants will have seating spaced for “social distancing.” This may also include churches! Some even project that henceforth church will be mainly online. No more gathering in large groups. The real dufi (isn’t that the plural of dufus?) say that all this will be good, that we will be a healthier society. I’m not so sure.

My recent public interactions have been mostly at the grocery store, since that’s the only place I go. I have been struck by how difficult it is to function in a crowd of people standing six feet apart with faces covered. So much of our communication comes through facial expressions: a smile or a frown, a dropped jaw or a quizzical expression. This came home to me when I almost crashed my cart into another buggy at the blind intersection of checkout row and condiment aisle. Normally, I would simply grin real big, nod, and say “excuse me! They need a light at this intersection.” The idea is to put the other person at ease. In this case, I realized I looked like a very tall, bearded potential mugger. When I tried to talk to soften the threat, my voice was muffled. It sounded more like “ummurgumeee. Ayneegaietoshun.” She didn’t seem comforted. All I could hear from under her mask as we did the social-distance dance, was “ickogyiggotafist.”

Proceeding to Produce, I met another lady. She was inspecting onions while I reached for sweet potatoes. Separated by our shopping carts, we each targeted our veggies and grabbed one of those little filmy, plastic bags from the roll with the twist-ties underneath. We stood there in silence trying to get the blasted things open. As always, the tops were stuck together so that no amount of shaking and rubbing could force the lips apart. We looked at each other and had one of those wonderful moments when a common dilemma unites us. Using grunts and sign language, we agreed that finger-licking was the preferred method of accomplishing this task. I told her I would stand watch while she stuck a finger under her mask so the quarantine police wouldn’t deem her as “unclean.” She returned the favor.

So, without further ado, here is my current list of stuff that I will campaign for when this season changes:

  • I will shake hands. If you want to sell me something, get my vote, or even enter my circle of preferred acquaintances, there must come a moment when I shake your hand, look into your eye, and do a quick assessment of your soul.
  • I will hug friends if they need it. A dearth of physical touch causes all manner of mental, emotional, and physical problems. There really is such a thing as, “I need a hug.” This may be a bigger long-term danger than the bug. Acts 20:37; Lk 15:20
  • I will lay hands on the sick. Jesus was an “in-person” kind of minister. He touched the leper, put his hands on the little children, and walked all the way to Jairus’s house to lay hands on a little girl. He told us to lay hands on the sick, not send them a text. Christianity is not sterile because life is not sterile. There is no technological substitute for personal presence. Mk 16:18
  • I will go to a church gathering to worship. The Lord inhabits the praises of His people, not His person. He even mentioned a minimum gathering of 2 or 3. Yes, he did! There is a particular kind of Presence when we gather in His Name in one place. Acts 2:1-4
  • I will go to church to be taught, equipped and encouraged. I don’t mind watching a teaching on a screen. (I actually don’t’ do it very often in my natural state.) In the current situation there is no other choice, and some sustenance is better than no sustenance. It’s necessary. However, impartation is done in person. In know the guy that sold you his cd’s said otherwise, but the anointing is an in-person phenomenon. Paul said it repeatedly, he needed to see their faces. Rom 1:9-11; 1 Thess 2:17-18; 3:9-10
  • I will sit and break bread with people I love. Six feet is too far away for intimate conversation. How can I try a bite of your food if you’re on the other side of the great gulf fixed? To have fellowship, both follows have to be in the same ship. John 12:1-3

Here’s the Point: Human beings need human contact. As Christians, we need each other, not just a Facebook post, but a close encounter. Thank God for the technology we have. It behooves us to use it, especially to invade the world of those who seem to live in Digitaland. But when we become part of the Church, we are enjoined to gather, and gather we must. For the sick person, the personal presence of a Spirit-filled human being is healing in itself. There is very little biblical evidence of praying for someone from afar and seeing them healed. Even Jesus regularly traveled some distance to bring healing.

Our current circumstances are quite unique. We make the adjustments we have to make. It’s our duty to protect others. We are cooperating, not because we have to, but because it’s the right thing. But for the long haul, let’s not settle for a simulation of God’s best. Technology is good, but the good is often the enemy of the best. I don’t want to watch life on a computer. Let’s get together!

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

(Hebrews 10:25 NLT)

Pastor Virgil Stokes

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