It is powerful when the church gathers. We celebrate through worship, experience encouragement through connection and engagement, and hear God’s voice as his word is spoken. So often, it is the best part of the week. God has promised to be present when we come together in his name. There is nothing quite like the gathered church.
At least for now, though, we are instead a scattered church. Being a scattered church changes so much. Corporate worship has never looked like it does now. Small groups meeting online have replaced the “normal” gatherings we cherish so much. Who would have imagined a time when children’s ministry and student ministry would look like it does today? And what about the church’s mission? How can we go into the world as salt and light when we we’ve been asked to stay at home?
We are scattered – but might it be that we are strategically so? This is not the first time the church has been scattered. Peter, his first letter, writes to the scattered early church. This church was not scattered by a pandemic but by persecution. Like us, they surely missed the joy and hope found in being together. But, as Peter reminds that early church, God’s mercy continues to abide with us.
That mercy, Peter says, brings us the gift of new birth into relationship with God! “New” here doesn’t so much mean recently received but rather refers to the life we now have with God through Christ. He goes on to highlight what that life brings.
This new life, Peter says, brings hope, not just any hope, but a living hope that is rooted in the reality that Jesus lives. For us today, then, we have this relationship with the God whose great mercy brings us hope. This hope is a certainty, a certainty that God is greater that this virus, than the fear it might bring. Without a doubt, he is control and we are in his hands. Now that is awesome!
Peter tells us, too, that we also have this incredible inheritance that is ours. It is as certain as our hope is. He tells us that it can never perish, spoil, or fade. Here’s the thing. Like the scattered early church, we’ve been given new birth, new life, the very love and presence of God in our lives. It’s ours because of God’s mercy, and it’s possible because of the truth that Jesus lives, and that he lives in us. That gives us a hope that is a certainty in this time of great uncertainty. We can rest assured that we are in the palm of his hands. And this life that we have inherited, yes, abundant life in the midst of a pandemic, cannot be taken from us.
So, let’s rejoice in what the pandemic cannot take. We have life in him, hope beyond measure, and an inheritance that cannot be measured. And as his scattered church, let’s make sure those whose lives we now touch know what God’s mercy makes available to them. Remember, the pandemic didn’t close the church. It opened one in every neighborhood. So, until we gather again, let’s scatter together with hope!