All of a sudden, I have four baptisms and one memorial service scheduled over the summer! And when I look more closely at my notes, I realize there are an additional six families discussing baptisms. My wife is supposed to start physical therapy for her back, but the clinic has no idea when they will be able to fit her in. Their COVID-19 related backup has them overwhelmed. I reviewed my personal and professional calendar and found 19 special events listed between now and Labor Day. Of course, I will need to squeeze my regular responsibilities and planning for the fall in around them. Coming Back and Catching Up is not going to be easy!
And I by no means think that I am alone in all of this. How many activities in your life were put off over the past 15 months? Are you looking for ways to catch up in the next 6 or have you given up? “Help Wanted” signs are all over the place. The Cloverleaf Restaurant, the last I heard, is closed on Mondays due to a lack of workers. Comerica Park is hosting more fans than it has since 2019, even though the Tigers are struggling to keep out of last place. Coming Back and Catching Up is both exciting and challenging in many ways.
This past Sunday we had the most people we have had in worship since Easter. Each week we are welcoming back “new” families that we have barely seen in over a year. Others are telling us that we will see them soon, however, I have the feeling that many are struggling with where/how they fit worship into all of their “Catching Up” activities. The elders tonight will be discussing a roll-out plan for getting up to full-speed by this fall. Like I said, Coming Back and Catching Up is both exciting and challenging.
So where are you in the process? Have you been fully vaccinated? Each week I speak with new people who are getting on board. Have you been out to eat in a crowded restaurant? I have heard of places that are packed to the gills. Have you placed in-person worship attendance high in your priorities? While I understand that we may not see you this month (or, in the case of many of you, your home church will not see you), the question is, “Where is this on your priority list?” … or, to use a more challenging vocabulary, how are you dealing these days with the Third Commandment?
And then there is the issue of your tithe. Have you considered how “Coming Back and Catching Up” fits into your life in this regard? The last I heard the word of the Lord says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3.10) … I do not see a disclaimer excusing us of this responsibility during a pandemic! I know we can claim freedom in the gospel … and the challenges we face living in the 21st century … but our role model is Jesus, who sacrificed all for our salvation, and the ancient church in Macedonia who, “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity – for they gave according to their means, and beyond their means, of their good accord.” (2 Corinthians 8.2)
And how incredibly good it is that Coming Back and Catching Up is never an issue with Jesus … unless we are talking about the Last Day. His promise is clear. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me … and behold, I am with you always … before pandemics, during pandemics, after pandemics … to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18, 20) “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3.22-23) He has no need to Come Back, because he is with us always . And Catching Up is covered by his mercies being new every morning.
So, just remember, however or wherever the pandemic has taken you this day, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40.30-31) In other words, Coming Back and Catching Up is freely ours through Christ, as long as we do not lock him out. So, are you excited by the challenge … or upset with me (perhaps again) for bringing these things up?