On Trial

Southerners are lousy at being quarantined.  Untrained in this discipline by a lack of inclement winter weather, we tear through our stock of quarantine supplies by noon on day one.  We love to prep for disaster, but have little patience to live within the parameters of our preparations.   We cancel everything in order to stay home, then stand all day with our noses pressed to the glass, itching to get out to see “what’s going on.”    Like school children after the first two weeks of summer vacation, we become quickly bored.

As long as our internet does not go out and take with it our Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, we may actually make it.   Surrounded by our hoarded TP, we outwait the lengthy COVID 19 incubation period by binge-watching.   For my wife and I, our nightly habit is British crime drama.  We especially like the adaptations of Ann Cleeves’ crime novels.   Her stories are complex.   The obvious culprits are never the perpetrators.   Only slowly does the truth come into focus as the “DCI” sifts through seemingly endless strands of contradictory evidence.   Cleeves’ stories give an appreciation for the complexity of criminal investigation, warning of the dangers of precipitous judgment.   To get to the truth, we cannot take a cursory look.

Perhaps we love fictional crime drama because it satisfies our need to see justice done, without complicating it with the complexities of our own sin.   In sixty minutes, confusion gives way to clarity and good triumphs over evil no matter what means it uses to get there.   But our lives are not so tidy.  In our real story, we are the fugitives who face a justice none of us can bear.   Yet the scales of God’s justice do not weigh the arguments for and against our guilt, but rather God’s justice and His mercy.

It is remarkable how much legal imagery the Bible uses to picture our condition.  The Old Testament anticipates a redeemer who will set prisoners free.  In the New Testament, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are pictured as advocates, God the Father is often likened to a judge, redemption depends upon a declaration of judicial righteousness and our condemnation is set aside in Christ.  

History’s greatest courtroom drama is recorded in the Bible in Luke 22 and 23.  Following an irregular grand jury indictment, Jesus is brought before the criminal court on charges trumped up religious rivals.  In Pontius Pilate’s courtroom we see the greatest miscarriage of justice in human history.  Everyone is guilty – the judge, the prosecutors, the jury – everyone that is except the one on trial.  He alone is innocent.  Evidence is ignored and the judge is captive public opinion and his own corrupt history.  Despite his declarations of Jesus’ innocence, Pontius Pilate condemns him to death and compounds injustice by releasing a man who is truly guilty of all the charges leveled against Jesus.

As spectators, we recoil at this apparent travesty of justice.  But we must look more deeply.   No cursory examination of Jesus’ trial reveals the extent of the guilty.   It is easy to spot the guilt of the Sanhedrin, of the crowds, of Judas, of Pilate, and of Barabbas.  But the investigation must go deeper.  For we are not just spectators of this drama.  Jesus is not a hapless victim of human injustice, but a willing sacrifice to divine justice – justice that is rightly ours to bear.   It is not just Barabbas’ cross that Jesus bore, but ours.   God is just – His justice cannot ignore our crimes or allow them to go unpunished – but in His mercy He is the justifier of those who have faith in Christ.  Because of this we can have peace with God and with one another.  This my friend is good news.

Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, March 22, as we examine Luke 22 and 23 and consider the greatest courtroom drama in history as it unfolds Christ’s innocence and condemnation for our guilt and pardon.  For more information about how we are gathering for corporate worship amidst calls for “social distancing” go to our post, How to Survive the Pandemic.

How to Survive the Pandemic

The video above explains our rationale and our plans for how we will move forward with corporate worship in the midst of calls for “social distancing.” The video outlines a few important steps to participate in our virtual gathering on the Lord’s Day. These are listed below with links.

Responding to Coronavirus

We, like people of every era, live in uncertain times.  Recent reaction to the COVID-19 virus has been stunning.  While we must guard against overreaction, it is important to make appropriate preparation.

First a few things to remember.   Our Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 7 and 11 remind us of two very important points regarding the COVID-19 virus.

Q7: What are the decrees of God?
A7: The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Q11: What are God’s works of providence?
A11: God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

First, nothing comes to pass except that which God has purposed and ordained for His own glory.  Second, God is absolutely sovereign over the world in which we live, including COVID-19 and all our responses to it.

So, how should we respond?  Let me encourage you with a few common sense precautions.

  1. Wash your hands and do so with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In that time, you can recite the Lord’s Prayer, or the Apostles’ Creed, or a passage of scripture you are working to memorize.  Or you could simply sing “Happy Birthday” two times.  Wash thoroughly and regularly throughout the day.
  2. Avoid touching your face. Ask someone to keep you accountable.
  3. Boost your immunity. Eat things that boost immunity.  Avoid things that suppress your immunity.   Take lots of Vitamin C, either in foods or through supplements.   Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  Foods with high-fructose corn syrup or refined sugars will suppress your immunity.  Especially avoid soft drinks.
  4. Stay hydrated with WATER (not soft-drinks or Coffee – those will only dehydrate). Try to drink 64 ounces of water throughout the day.
  5. Don’t hibernate, but do be sensible about physical contact with others. Minimize physical interactions.   Avoid large crowds.  At church please refrain from hugs or hand-shakes for now.  Limit eating out as well.
  6. If you are sick, or have been recently, stay home from church. Your immunity is compromised and you are vulnerable.  And you might affect someone else who is vulnerable.   Follow the principle of Philippians 2:3 to “consider others more significant than yourself.”   We will get the sermons and orders of service posted on social media for your use at home.    The command to “not neglect to meet together” in Hebrews 10:25 does not mean “at all costs” to yourself or others.
  7. Keep updated with accurate information at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

At present the Session is not recommending we suspend our public gatherings for worship.  If you are uncertain about whether to come, please contact Pastor Wheeler or one of the elders and let us help you think through your concerns.   We will evaluate other weekly or scheduled activities on an individual basis. Please monitor our facebook and twitter feeds for updates.  We will also send out emails and texts as appropriate regarding any cancellations.   Please make sure that we have your current contact information for email and texts.

Throughout history, the Church’s response to health crises has been to care for the community.   Let me suggest the following ways in which we need to be prepared to care for our community.

  1. Think about the vulnerability of others, those at church, your neighbors, and at-risk people in your spheres of influence. Keep close contact with one another.   Establish a pattern of calling, texting, or emailing.   Ask how you can help.  Love your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Remember that physical and emotional distress often produces spiritual distress. Take time to ask, “how are you holding up right now?” and “how can I pray for you?”   Encourage others to express their fears, concerns, and frustrations, then point them to Christ.  Your neighbor’s uncertainty goes beyond Coronavirus.  This is an important time to consistently share the gospel.   If you are not sure how to get started, talk with Pastor Wheeler or one of the elders.

And for a few final considerations.  Remember that the greatest danger in this crisis is not infection from COVID 19, but the fearful response of our society.   In view of this here are a few practical tips to keep in mind.

  1. Top off your tank every time you go out. Gasoline shortages often accompany ramped-up panic.   If you have some gas cans, fill them just to be safe.
  2. Keep plenty of nourishing food on hand. If you need something and can’t get out to get it or can’t find it, or are simply concerned about being out, ask if someone can help.   Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  3. Be careful not to get caught up in the social media vortex of panic that will only grow. As believers in a sovereign God, we are called to bring comfort and assurance, not fear and uncertainty to our neighbors.
  4. Take more time in prayer and in the reading of God’s Word so that you can remember that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and that He still rules and reigns.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope: 
T
he steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24