Many churches are doing their best to be diligent about following public health recommendations as they relate to COVID-19, Riverside being such a church. However, there are sister churches in states (Texas and Mississippi) that disregard such recommendations of safe protocol. These churches, those in states who are disregarding the expert health officials, are now one of the few if not the only dimension in congregants’ lives in which parishioners are still being asked to follow public health recommendations. This has placed these churches in a difficult situation.
The churches who are now voluntarily complying with health officials are offering a counter-cultural witness of the gospel of life. That is, these churches are following the command to love thy neighbor by keeping them safe and are doing so at a great risk. In a society so habituated with commercialism and consumerism, it is easy for churches to begin to develop anxieties. What if our members leave and find congregations willing to risk the lives of their members to gather? Then, on the other hand, churches also run risks from the ease of couch worshiping. This past year has allowed many to sit comfortably in their homes while they drift in and out of services found online. Folks may like the music here, but the preaching is better there, and finally this church ends their service how I like it. The couch worshiping may beget complacency.
There are no easy answers, trust me, but I do find solace and wisdom in Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The challenge is for us to both see the message about the cross as it pertains to the safety of our most vulnerable within our communities (why churches ought to heed the wisdom of public health officials), and understand that our acts, the actions of Christians and of the church, will be deemed foolish by many in our society. It will be foolishness to those who are perishing; unfortunately, many are literally perishing because of this foolishness, foolishness of not listening to the health experts.
We’re in Lent and we’re also in a sort of exile and have been for almost a year. But we are still the church, we are still from Riverside, and we are still loving one another as best we can, and we are still claiming the power of God.
1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
1:20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,
1:23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1:25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength1 Corinthians 1:18-25