Welcome to this week's ToGather! (Learn more about ToGather.)
The current world situation is a new journey for all of us. Our focus this week is on Jesus' presence with us on this new journey. No matter where life's circumstances might take us, Jesus has promised us His presence. Our hope is rooted in Him. Jesus defeated Satan and his power to destroy us. The Lord promised to be with us in the challenging moments we face. He will not only sustain us; He has also promised to go with us and fill our lives with peace, joy, and love.
But, can we really put our trust in Jesus? It sounds too good to be true in a world of gritty reality and global problems. Thankfully, our verse from the Bible today is rooted in this gritty reality and embeds a promise of hope in our broken world's future!
Verse of the Day:
Our Verse of the Day comes from Genesis 3:15 and God's curse of Satan, through his curse on the serpent of temptation, and our Father's promise to send one who will ultimately defeat the evil one. Let's join together in our Verse of the Day.
Beyond Bread and Wine:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that, he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (John 20:19-23).
At this moment in time, a new phrase dominates the public conversation: "social distancing." Before the coronavirus (COVID 19) reared its ugly and destructive head, I'm not sure I had ever heard this phrase in conversation. These days, however, locking ourselves in our home seems to be the primary solution to preventing the spread of a feared disease. Some minimize the threat calling it overblown, while grocery stores and pharmacies are out of sanitizer, wipes, and toilet paper. In moments like these, who are we to believe? What are we to do? How are we to live as followers of Jesus?
We are not the first generation of believers trying to find our way through challenging times, feeling alone, isolated from the crowds, and trying not to be fearful. The first band of believers had locked themselves in a private room because they feared those who had crucified their Messiah. As they hid from what they feared might harm them, the Lord came to them and said, "Peace be with you!"
I don't know about you, but concerns for aging parents and worries about immuno-compromised family members press against my heart. I don't want to be fearful. I don't want life's problems to dominate my thoughts. What can I do when worry and fear press against my hope? How do I keep the uncertainties and doubts of the moment outside? How do I grow my faith and resist the devil's viral tools of fear and worry?
The Supper of the Lord!
As we enter into our time to honor the Lord's death through the Supper, let's have our time at the Table become a moment to invite the Lord of grace and power into our presence. Remember Jesus' promise given to the believers in Laodicea when their hearts were waning in their trust in and passion for him:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).
Remember, Jesus didn't say these words to unbelievers for an altar call. The Lord spoke them initially to people like us, people of faith, and for times like we face now. Rather than letting our hearts grow cold to Jesus during trying times, the Lord wants us to invite Him into our presence so he can bring us his peace!
As you take a few moments to share the Lord's Supper, let's realize that Jesus is at the door waiting for us to invite Him into our presence. He wants to share this meal with us. Some of us will find that physically going to the door, opening it, and verbally inviting Jesus to enter, will help us remember his promise. For others, merely inviting Jesus to come to join us at the Table is enough. (We may not need to bother with the door because Jesus didn't use it when he came in and joined the disciples on that special evening on the first day of the week, long ago!) Either way, let's invite Jesus to our Table of grace. Let's each take a turn at saying to each other, or if we are alone, say to ourselves, "Peace be with you!"
After all, in this time of uncertainty, isn't that what we most need?
"Peace be with you!"
Prayer for the Bread
O Father, please make Jesus' presence among us real as we share this bread. Jesus, we want you to know you are not only welcome here, but we need you here. We need to hear your assurance of peace and know that you are with us. We remember that you came because of love for us and that you gave your life for us. As we eat this bread, we place our lives and our future in your hands. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Prayer for the Cup
O LORD, you sent Jesus to us to save us. In these challenging times, we hear Jesus' voice remind us that you sent your Son to us to seek us, serve us, and save us. We also hear Jesus send us to seek, serve, and save the lost. So, dear Father, we ask that you open our eyes to how we can help others. We ask this in Jesus' precious and powerful name. Amen.
Songs to Share and Encourage:
Our first song reminds us to place our trust in Jesus and call on His name for our help:
Our second song reminds us that we are to carry the cross and not just a stick. We are not afraid to live on mission to a broken and decaying world:
In addition, we have included two other songs that highlight our two themes, drawing near to Jesus and living on mission for Jesus.
Many of us have held tightly to these words of assurance during our most trying times. May they be our blessing and confidence as we seek to live for Jesus.
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).