Thursday, April 9, 2020

Church Closure & Exile

This is the fourth Sunday that we are facing down this Movement Control Order (MCO) as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. This is the first time in my life time that churches have to close for its holiest days, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is a concern that some Christians are nonchalant about what is happening and quite content with online or live-streaming services or perhaps just audio recording of sermons as what we have been doing since 18th March 2020. But all these forms of worship are a pale reflection of what the Lord requires, a meeting of believers called the church, the ekklesia. It is not a meeting of a few individuals or one single family or household but a gathering of believers from all walks of life. There is no such thing as virtual church or online church without human contact. The whole idea of church is physical human contact or the gathering of Christians in one place at any given time. Apostle Paul enjoined Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss and it is not about sending a text or two with warm wishes without meeting. Or at the very least, a warm handshake as in many cultures today pre-Covid-19.
Perhaps it is tolerable if this restriction is lifted in a couple of months but future pandemics could be worse and closure of churches or a ban on public gathering could last 6 months or a year. How can the church survive then? I call upon my fellow believers, especially leaders to reflect on the condition of the church. There must be a sincere attempt to seek answers from the Lord as to why this has come upon God's people that we can't meet together even on Good Friday? As for me, the only analogy I take from Scripture is the exile of Israel. Not only was the temple of God in Jerusalem razed but a vast majority of Israelites were taken captive into exile. There was no sanctuary in foreign land where they could worship the God of Israel. So for 50 years of Israel's exile (70 years were prophesied but it was shortened to 50 years - 587-537BC), the Israelites could only maintain their faith within their households or a small gathering of friends like Daniel and his three friends. It was only much later in Daniel's exile that after reading Jeremiah that the exile would come to an end after a certain period that he began to pray that great prayer of intercession recorded in Daniel 9. Perhaps if churches are closed for 3 or 4 months, then Christians will feel the pinch and begin to rise up and cry out to God. Why has God allowed us to go into exile without temple or sanctuary, without the assembly of His people called the church?

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