I guess the simple answer is “YES,” –whether gathered or apart. But thereafter, as with most things, is where it starts to get more ambiguous!
Neither God nor Old First would expect you to try and come to church if such a trip is going to put you in danger. Know that. Remember that. Practice that.
This is true whether the risk comes from the weather, your car’s disrepair, your feeling sick or any other threat. Of course, depending on the cause, there may be different responses: I am thinking of ride shares and visits to the sick.
But “acts of God” (though that phrase is a misnomer in a few different ways, or at least a less than attractive reflection on God!) leave us with little effective response (hence their name!).
All gathering as the church is a blessing (more than we may realize, I suspect), but one is not alone even when one lives all by oneself– God is there too. And many of us have families of two or more with whom, I pray, we may find God…
If the weather is really bad, some government official may close this or that area down and tell us all to stay home, as during one of our recent blizzards. And I believe that regional public transportation systems are already scheduled to shut down. In such cases, I believe, we ought to “render unto Ceasar,” listen to our government officials, and help out by staying off the roads and out of the way of emergency responders. Anyway, even at home, you can still “render unto God.”
Still not sure what the weather will actually be like Sunday morning, consider this your permission from the pastor (if such a thing is even possible in the anti-hierarchical UCC!) to trust yourself and to play it safe. You are “officially” excused from church (if you feel any need for such an excuse)!
But, feeling sort of like the mail service, I will be in the Sanctuary tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Ok, it’s not any great bravery or herculean feat on my part. It’s another advantage we have of my living 50 feet from the sanctuary building.
I suspect our gathering will be very effected by the weather, and many, perhaps most folks, will not make it to 4th & Race. That’s fine. Even if I’m all by myself, I will pray for you all during that hour. I might even take advantage of the moment and sing a solo!
I bet, however, a few others will probably make it too. Our UCC-faith places great emphasis on Jesus’ promise that whenever two or three are gathered, he is present too. (Actually that verse is the biblical origin of our UCC-way of decision-making– if you don’t know what I mean, ask me sometime). Tomorrow we will experience Jesus’ promise again– a few gathered often turns out not only to be sufficient, but a special blessing. If we open ourselves to the way such a gathering is different, we find that Jesus is indeed with us too.
But since many of you will likely end up at home in the morning, I’m also taking advantage of this “opportunity” to ask you to think about your own devotional practice. A hurricane whirling around us might be just right for reminding us to turn to God! Or as I said before, you could be home and still “render unto God,” dedicating the hour intentionally to your relationship with God.
Many of you already have your own practices– prayer and meditation, service to others, Psalm or Scripture reading, journaling, hymn singing, intentional thankfulness…
To offer some help setting aside that hour, I will post the sermon (with its Scriptural references) on-line before 10 a.m. tomorrow. (Each week’s sermon is posted on the website under “Connect,” usually a day or two after it is preached. It also is posted on the “Old First Reformed UCC” Facebook page.)
You might even choose to read the Scripture lessons or the sermon aloud, or if your family is more than 1 person, take turns reading to one another.
I will also add some reflection questions at the end, which you might use for your own meditation or for a discussion with your family.
If one or more of the questions gets you thinking, I encourage you to write a response. You could post it on the “Old First Reformed UCC” Facebook page, send to us all via the e-mail listserv, or just e-mail it to me or another member for sharing. (I’m always looking for guest writers for our weekly E-pistles! …but I don’t use “contributions” without permission!)
I was thinking that we might also share our prayer concerns “diasporadically” (when we are scattered): the Facebook page is a great venue for the community when we are apart. If it’s a pressing concern, you may also share it via the e-mail listserv. Or you could call someone from church, check on them, and ask them to pray with you. (We might remember 2 things: 1) always respect others’ privacy when sharing prayer concerns publicly, and 2) some people are not on-line, for example Lois, Gerry, Jim D., who won’t get THIS message without a call!)
If the approaching storm is going to interrupt our usual church routines, maybe, responding creatively and faithfully, we can try out new ways of strengthening our relations to one another and to God… It turns out we are still Christ’s church even when we are apart!
Whether I see you in the morning or not, please know that in my prayers are with all of you, your loved ones and our neighbors (from the Carolinas into Canada it seems)… that we will be safe and dry and soon see a calm AFTER the storm.
Even if I don’t see you in church…