The government has ordered church assemblies, among other things, to cease due to the pandemic. I understand that idea and will comply. I do not, however, like the idea nor some of the ways in which people are finding it simple enough to offset the problem.
What appears to be lost is the failure of many people to realize that the church worship service and assembly is not mainly about the preacher’s/pastor’s message nor the inspiring singing of the congregation/choir.
Church worship assemblies, at least on Sunday, is about the Communion of the saints; the Lord’s Supper foremost.
It is about Jesus, not about us, nor the preacher, nor anything else.
Now, for most “Christian” groups, this is not a problem; they don’t observe it on the first day of every week anyway. Those who DO care about New Testament patterns of worship, however, will observe it weekly (Acts 20:7).
Sunday is the first day of the week, the day the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over death, the grave, and Satan’s power to paralyze us with fear of death, by rising from death.
From the outset Christians assembled together to pay homage to Him and “proclaim” His death until He comes by honoring and venerating Him through the joint participation in the Communion service. This is established fact both in Scripture (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-26) and in secular, historical, eyewitness context (see Justin Martyr’s description of a Sunday service in his First Apology*).
So when one removes that aspect of Sunday worship, the collective assembly of saints partaking of the Communion, you have effectively neutralized the main venue of worshiping Jesus Christ. Instead it centers on the preaching and the music as the highlights.
I know Jesus says, “…where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). That is not, however, a blanket license for Christians to fail to meet as health and opportunity permit. It certainly was not meant to be used as a means to justify deliberate excusing oneself from assemblies of the saints in favoring of just staying home and “worshiping.”
During the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire, Christians could have used the fear of discovery and death by the authorities to stop gathering. Some did quit meeting together habitually (Hebrews 10:25). Many refused to quit and paid for it with their lives. (I can safely assure you that a sword is just as effective at killing as is a disease). They refused to allow their fear of death to stop them from congregating over decades of fearful and relentless persecution by the governmental authorities.
I am not urging anyone to disobey the law of the land. That, too, is a sin (Romans 13:1-7). However, do not ask me to believe that Christians can just as easily “worship at home” or via “live streaming” the preacher’s message during any time of crisis and it suffices in place of an assembly of the saints for “Sunday worship.” Let that never put our minds so at ease that we imagine all is as it should be. Never allow it to lower our guard against forsaking the assembly to be diminished even slightly. We should chafe at having to do this, not welcoming it as if were a satisfying second best.
My fear is that we may become numbed by this procedure, have it become ingrained in our minds that we forget just what we are missing of the value and importance of our collective assembly worship: the veneration of Jesus Christ via Communion with Him as His Body, His church.
It is not merely hearing an inspiring message, singing, or praying, but the joy of being together, unified in spirit, sober-minded, proclaiming to the world that on a Sunday, long ago, our Savior won the victory over death and the fear of it.
In the taking of Communion TOGETHER we convey a united front and unified voice in proclamation to the world of that victory. We show them by our gatherings that we have no overriding fear of death because our Champion, Jesus Christ, is the only One who overcame it, and in so doing gives us the right to partake of His eternal life.
Sitting at home, isolated in tiny groups, we just cannot do that as well no matter how hard we try. Yes, we may have to do so for a time, to be obedient citizens or safety-conscious of others, but let us never forget that it is a far cry from the optimum.
The first chance, the very first opportunity we have to return to the center of our assembly worship; Holy Communion in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us do so with grateful relief, heart-felt thanks. exuberant joyfulness and re-dedication to the Cause.