Campfires and the CoronaVirus
These are strange days we find ourselves in. Days full of new words, phrases and ideas surrounding the now infamous CoronaVirus. Phrases such as “new normal, self-quarantine, and social distancing” have quickly become a part of our vocabulary. Along with the new words have come new ways of doing things such as wearing masks and gloves in public and closing down businesses deemed non-essential. Also closing down all forms of group entertainment, such as concerts and sporting events, because they are now viewed as “spreader events”. Needless to say, the church has been propelled into figuring out how to be the church, outside of the comfort of their buildings. We see livestream video and internet-based church services, as well as, drive-in church services popping up to meet the need. But, is that enough?
I am fortunate to live inside the gates of one of the most beautiful Christian camps in the nation, with 622 acres as my backyard. Stay at home orders don’t affect us much, other than missing trips to our favorite restaurants. One thing we’ve enjoyed doing, in the midst of this craziness, is having an occasional backyard campfire. No electronics, TV, or radio...just family sitting around the fire talking and poking sticks into the embers.
It was during one of these times of sitting around the fire, poking at the embers, that I was reminded of the following story: “One cold winter's evening the pastor of a small town church dropped in to visit one of his members that hadn’t been to church in awhile. After inviting the pastor in, the two men went to the living room to sit and visit next to the fire. Before sitting the preacher went over to the fire to warm his hands. He then, without saying a word, picked up the fire tongs and used them to grab a large glowing ember from the bed of coals in the bottom of the fireplace. He pulled the glowing orange ember away from the rest of the fire and set it against the inside edge of the fireplace. Needless to say the glowing ember quickly turned black once separated from the rest of the fire. The two men talked for over an hour, not about anything specific. They talked about grown children and young grandchildren, sports and the weather. Not once did the preacher talk about church or sermons, nor did he mention this member's absence from church. As the evening drew late, it came time for the pastor to take his leave. He got up, put on his jacket and gloves, then without saying a word he went over to the fire once again grabbing the tongs and using them to pick up the, now cold, black ember and placing it back into the fire. The ember almost immediately came to life and quickly began glowing bright orange as it rejoined the other embers in the fire. As the preacher turned to leave, the man with whom he’d been visiting said “preacher, thank you for the message. I needed to hear that. I’ll see you at church this Sunday”.
We are not meant to be “socially distant”. It’s not natural, we are social beings, made in our Fathers image. Like an ember, that can’t remain on fire once it is removed from the other embers, Christians will grow cold and become ineffective without being part of a strong faith community. People need human interaction. Christians need human interaction, especially with other Christians. Hebrews 10:24-25 says this - “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” I want to reiterate “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”. The truth is that the day IS fast approaching. If the author of Hebrews was aware of it at the writing of this book, how much closer is that day now?
The Coronavirus has reminded the church of several things.
First - the church is not the building, name or denomination. It is the body of believers, and it is so much bigger than we can fathom. We don’t need to gather in fancy cathedrals to be the church...we just have to show Christ's love to each other and to a lost and dying world.
Second - We need each other. Proverbs 27:17 speaks to this “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”. We need to continually dive into God’s word with other believers. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to work together to make disciples, as Jesus instructed us to do (Matt. 19:14). As we’ve spent this time apart in an effort to be good, caring citizens, we’ve rediscovered our need for each other, our need for corporate teaching, praise and worship, and prayer. Sadly, a lot is lost when we attempt to do this by video and TV alone.
Third - We are the hands and feet of Jesus. In the midst of this pandemic we’ve seen people stepping up to meet needs, great acts of kindness and generosity, plants converting their assembly lines to make items for sanitation and healthcare, retired ladies sewing thousands of face masks, people shopping for their neighbor so they don’t have to put themselves at risk, and so much more. As christians, we should have a renewed sense of who we are in Christ. We hold the life-giving, life-changing message in the gospel. Let’s get out there and share that hope. One of the best ways to meet someone’s spiritual needs is to first meet a physical need. Let’s consider how we can continually be the hands and feet of Jesus, and in so-doing show our neighbors the love of Christ.
The Coronavirus pandemic will end. Things will return to something that better resembles the lives we knew not that long ago. When it is safe and acceptable to do so churches will return to their buildings and camps will open once again to be a refuge for Christians to withdraw from the world so that they can draw closer to God (Luke 5:16). Concerts, sporting events, cruises, and vacations will take place once again. But let us not forget what we’ve learned during our time of solitude. WE are the church. While we can be kept out of our buildings, no one can stop the church from being the church. The church is the people, and we are everywhere, so let’s be like the believers in the book of Acts and spread the message of the gospel into our communities. Finally, let us also remember that all things on this earth are temporary, so let’s invest our lives and resources into those things that are eternal...for the Day is fast approaching.