He Will Make All Things New (Pastor’s Desk)

It’s hard to imagine that only four weeks ago was the last time most of us saw all of us together. You’d probably have to go back a few weeks more to remember when our church was beginning to fill up with new students starting the year, visiting parents, newcomers along with all the regular faces we’re so used to seeing.

But that was then, and this is now. God’s people have always been a people called and gathered together by our God – and over the past 2000 years only in a few other rare and exceptional circumstances have churches not gathered together. It’s sometimes astonishing to think that it took an invisible virus to once again do prevent our gatherings.

But in 2020 our technological advances mean we haven’t stopped opening God’s Word with each other – online, digitally, through the screen. And with that has come a different way of looking at things, and a new learning curve.

As SLE Church closed its doors a few weeks ago and moved online, there was heaps of tension in the air. Behind the scenes we had guys like Ivan Tan, Li Wei Wee and Matthew Tao – along with the other musicians and PA guys working out all the tech of live streaming. (Drop them an encouraging message and say thanks!). We’ve had some hitches with live-streaming the second service that we’re aware of and ironing out. But we’re glad that it’s gone relatively smoothly.

Quite a number of our fellowship groups have been working out how to move online as well – using Zoom, Jitsi Meet, Google Hangouts, and other video conferencing sites. We’ve been able to maintain some contact, some catchups, and some prayer between us even as we remain socially distanced, and self-isolated. And if you’re not already connected in this way, let us encourage you to seek those options out – contact Ben, myself, or one of your fellowship leaders to get connected.

Feedback on these online gatherings has been generally positive – but there is one piece of feedback that has come up consistently – and it’s worth repeating: the feedback is that while online meetings have generally been ok, it isn’t the same as being face to face.

No, it isn’t. And I think this is all the more reason to keep persisting with meeting online when we can – and not just in our small bible study groups, but catching up with more people online 1 to 1. It isn’t the same, and every time we meet online we are reminded of what we have lost. You’d think that in this day and age of webcams and chat groups that we would overcome that loss – but something is still missing.

I miss seeing people face to face – of seeing you smile, of responding with my own smile, of you connecting with this and joy being shared. I miss looking at people’s eyes, of seeing the hidden joys and pains. I miss the appropriate hugs of joy. I miss the singing at church – oh how I miss hearing each other’s voices together!

And all of this is why we should persist in meeting online. Because with every online meeting we build up within us a longing for more, a desire for a return to our gathered time together.

One of my friends, Stephen McAlpine, wrote on his blog recently that after all this is over there will be a lot of hugging when church gets back together again.

But as much as I look forward to that day when SLE Church gathers again in person – that day will be a shadow of the better, brighter day to come.

It will be as it has been written in the Bible:

[1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Let’s keep gathering together online, as a church, in our fellowship groups, and in one to one catch ups with each other. And let’s keep doing so looking forward not only to the day when we rejoice together as a church, but also looking forward to that day when we will rejoice with all Christians from history past and history future, around the throne of Jesus, forever more.

Revelation 21:1–5

“He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Himself. And there will be no more social distancing. Ever. Again.”
– Stephen McAlpine

When Loving each other means not seeing each other (Pastor’s Desk)

When Jesus was asked to summarise the Law he distilled it down to two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind; the second command is to love your neighbour as yourself (cf Matt 22:34-40)

On Wednesday the Prime Minister of Australia announced some strict measures to combat the Covid19 spread and help flatten the curve (Edit: this post was written pre-weekend, on Sunday evening the PM announced further stricter measures). Flattening the curve has been the catch cry during this period – and is basically the hope of medical professionals that through good hygiene practices and ‘social distancing’ we will be able to keep the number of infections low enough that serious cases will not overload our already loaded medical facilities. If the curve is not flattened, if the number of infections is allowed to grow unchecked, then the number of serious infections will quickly overwhelm our systems and people will die who might not have – Italy being a particularly serious example of this.

The virus itself has so far clearly shown itself to be quite deadly for elderly generations and those with compromised immune systems, and it is not ‘just like the flu’. Given this information, and given the demographics of our church, we believe that as an act of loving our church members, doing good to the household of faith (cf Gal 6:10), and ultimately as an act of loving God, we would heed the government’s warnings on this matter and temporarily cancel our services.

So, it was a little disappointing to hear recently of someone breaking the government-mandated 14 self-isolation and brushing off concerns with, ‘I’m young…’ and ‘You should have more faith.’

Let me explain why this is not only naïve and foolish but also breaking the greatest commandment #2 and ultimately commandment #1: if you were to catch the virus then sure, being of young age would mean that you would have a high chance of survival – but what of those to whom you have passed it on during your contagious incubation period? What of the person three or four steps removed from you who has received the virus because you chose to ignore the warnings? That is not loving your neighbour as yourself. It is profoundly self-interested.

If I understand the interplay of the two great commands together, then the implication is that if you willingly choose to not love your neighbour, you are not truly loving God. The two are tied together. Christians who do not heed governmental authority in these matters (cf Romans 13) or your church leadership are not demonstrating faithfulness. They are demonstrating disobedience.

So let this be an exhortation for us all – let us care for each other in this season by heeding the warnings of our government, practising good hygiene and appropriate social distancing, and to do so not out of mere lip service but out of love for God and love for our neighbour.