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Jesus’ last Passover was our first Communion.
I’ve come to depend on the University of St Andrews’s time-honored graduation ritual to give sense and order to my academic year. The wearing of gowns, recitation of Latin, and tapping of heads with an ancient cap, these have no intrinsic value. But each year, the principal of the university begins by explaining their meaning, and, infused with renewed significance, the ceremony transforms graduands into graduates.
Graduation is canceled this year due to the pandemic, so alternative means must mark the occasion. Physical presence is important but has never been required—plenty graduate in absentia and receive their diplomas on the authority of the principal’s words.
What happens, though, when ritual requires physical presence?
Christians are poignantly confronting this question during Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, we traditionally gather to recount the Last Supper and re-enact it by sharing Communion. But during a pandemic, absence alters the ritual.
Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples was a Jewish Passover—a meal always commemorated in person. Passover was a pilgrimage festival, meaning that Jews traveled from all over to Jerusalem to celebrate.
The original Passover was God’s opening act of redemption (Ex. 12). Israelites smeared sacrificial lambs’ blood on their doorposts to be spared from judgment and ate hurried meals from the roasted meat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Then God led his liberated people out of Egypt through the wilderness to worship at Mount Sinai. At first, they worshipped remotely. God descended onto the mountain in a terrible thundercloud, and Moses constructed a crowd-control barrier to keep people from deadly ...
Jesus’ unnatural resurrection helps us fear not.
Empty churches on Easter Sunday around the world represent an image that, until this year, would have made sense only in a fever-pitched 1990s end-times novel. Yet, in the middle of a global pandemic, that will now be our reality. The grief that Christians already face over missing their church services for necessary social distancing will intensify when it comes to the preeminent day on the Christian calendar. But if we pay attention, we may see something new and holy about Easter in quarantine. And that something is fear.
At first glance, fear seems alien to Easter, belonging more to Good Friday. Even our hymnody reflects this. “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” is in lyric and tune foreboding, while “Up From the Grave He Arose” peals triumphant. This makes musical sense. Good Friday evokes the emotions the first disciples experienced when they thought all was lost and the noon skies above them turned dark. By contrast, Easter evokes a new dawn, the truth that “everything sad is coming untrue.”
And yet, the Gospel accounts are not so neatly categorized by emotion. The first reactions to the Resurrection were confusion and fear. The guards at the tomb “trembled and became like dead men” at the sight of the angel there (Matt. 28:4, ESV). To the faithful women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the first words spoken by the angel were “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said” (vv. 5–6).
Upon hearing the angel, the women were filled with “with fear and great joy” (v. 8). They then ran right into the risen Jesus, who repeated the angel’s words, “Do not ...
As a widow, I have newfound appreciation for why the mourning of Holy Saturday is indispensable to the journey toward joy.
The most striking of my childhood church memories occurred during our parish’s Good Friday service each year. At the end of the service, with the lights dimmed, our pastor would draw a black drape across the altar at the front of the sanctuary. As a child, the gesture reminded me of physicians I’d seen in old Hollywood movies draping the deceased. No doubt the allusion was intended. A black cloth hung on the cross above the altar, the sanctuary dressed for a funeral.
Afterward, my family and I walked quietly to the parking lot. An awkward hush followed us. Jesus had just died in there—what could you say after that? Buckled into the back seat of our station wagon, my sisters and I sat uncomfortably, waiting for the feeling to subside. This was only a pageant, right? The world wasn’t really this dark, our situation this bleak.
Eventually, conversation began to flow, and by the time we arrived home, the transition from Good Friday was complete. Like slowly waking from a bad dream, we emerged into the present once again. The next day, Holy Saturday, was filled with busyness. We made deviled eggs and rearranged the fridge to fit the ham. Nobody spoke of death or dying or thought about the black drape across the altar.
When we arrived at church on Easter morning, I always marveled at the transformed sights and smells of the sanctuary. Fragrant lilies and hyacinths blanketed the chancel, and the altar was covered in a white-and-gold embroidered cloth. The sanctuary had been scrubbed clean of death.
Even then as a child, the contrast seemed surreal. Were we the same people we’d been just two days before? After 40 days in Lent with Jesus, we stood at the foot of the cross and took in its horror, woke on ...
The Cross secured our salvation. But Jesus’ fate still breaks the Father’s heart.
After I gave a lecture on the Old Testament, one of my students came up to me and asked, “Do you think it was more than a test of Abraham’s faith?”
We had been discussing the story of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. “Maybe,” he continued, “if God knew he was going to give up his own son, Jesus, later on, then ... what if he wanted to see how Abraham would react to this difficult plan?” I don’t remember how I responded that day, but what stuck with me is the notion that seeing a member of your family suffer, especially your own child, is absolutely crushing. I had never before thought about God having an “emotional” reaction to the Cross.
Perhaps a year later, when we were discussing the passion narratives in the Gospels, another student question caught me by surprise: “Wasn’t giving up his son easy for God? If God the Father knew Jesus would just rise from the dead, then why was it such a big deal? If he knew the end of the story, it wasn’t such a big sacrifice after all.” I mustered up some sort of textbook theological answer at the time. Little did I know fate would give me a more personal response soon enough.
The next year, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer when she was just a year old. My family went through two awful years of chemotherapy treatments, bone marrow biopsies, numerous infections, and many sleepless nights. The good news is that she is alive and well, cancer free since 2014. My wife and I have the happy ending that all parents of kids with cancer dream about. But there is another part of our lives that our doctors didn’t warn us about. Even though cancer treatment is over, and I am ...
這場危機是迫切的，我卻感到相當無助。 但或許感到自己的渺小才是祈禱最好的提醒。 禱告是我們積極實踐信仰的方式，我們如此簡單、如此的相信整個世界都在上帝的手裏。 在禱告中，我們要記住：“應當一無掛慮，只要凡事藉著禱告、祈求和感謝，將你們所要的告訴神。神所賜那超越人所能了解的平安，必在基督耶穌裏，保守你們的心懷意念。”（腓立比書4：6-7）。 禱告從來不是屬上帝的子民逼不得已的時候才用的方式。 這反倒是我們的第一個行動。
考慮到這一點，我整理了在這次疫情期間可以作出的20項祈禱事項。 每個事項都關註到不同社區的獨特需求。 我很幸運我們教會有許多醫療專業人士，其中幾位給了如何在這個時候為他們禱告的建議。 我將他們的回應包括在內。 我也試圖更廣泛地思考其他人如何受到當前危機的影響。
當然，這些項目並不包含一切，但它是一個很好的起點。 我希望它能夠作為一些指引，幫助教會團結地進行集體祈禱（即使是通過綫上的方式）。 我們相信上帝會俯身傾聽我們的祈禱：
1. 為生病和受感染的人：主啊，求你治愈和幫助； 保持身體和精神的健康； 控制疫情的傳播。
2. 為特別脆弱的人群：主啊，請保護我們的老年人和那些患有慢性病的； 供養窮人，特別是沒有醫療保險的人。
3. 為年輕和強壯的人：主啊，給予他們必要的謹慎，防止他們在不知不覺中傳播疾病； 激勵他們願意提供幫助。
4. 為我們的地區、州和聯邦政府：主啊，幫助我們的政府官員曉得如何分配防治這場疫情必要的資源； 幫助他們提供更多的檢測。
7. 為希望獲得及時信息的讀者：主啊，幫助我們找到最有用的當地信息，使我們成為好鄰舍。 使我們遠離焦慮和恐慌，使我們急事要付上代價也能夠實踐建議的措施。
13. 在可預見的將來,有年幼子女的家庭來說:主啊,幫助父母親們有創造意地合作,照顧和幫助孩童茁壯成長。 對於單親家長,幫助擴展支持他們的網路。
20. 為前線醫護人員，我們感謝神呼召他們服事我們。 我們也祈求:
这场危机是迫切的，我却感到相当无助。 但或许感到自己的渺小才是祈祷最好的提醒。 祷告是我们积极实践信仰的方式，我们如此的简单，如此的相信整个世界都在上帝的手里。 在祷告中，我们要记住"应当一无挂虑，只要凡事借着祷告、祈求和感谢，将你们所要的告诉神。神所赐那超越人所能了解的平安，必在基督耶稣里，保守你们的心怀意念。"（腓立比书4：6-7）。 祷告从来不是属上帝的子民逼不得已的时候才用的方法。 这反倒是我们的第一个行动。
考虑到这一点，我整理了在这次疫情期间可以作出的20项祈祷事项。 每个事项都关注到不同社区的独特需求。 我很幸运我们教会有许多医疗专业人士，其中几位给了如何在这个时候为他们祷告的建议。 我将他们的回应也包括在内。 我也试图更广泛地思考其他人如何受到当前危机的影响。
当然，这些项目并不包含一切，但它是一个很好的起点。 我希望，它能够作为一些指引，帮助教会团结地进行集体祈祷（即使是通过线上的方式）。 我们相信上帝会俯身倾听我们的祈祷：
1. 为省病和受感染的人：主啊，我们求你的治愈和帮助。 保持身体和精神的健康； 控制疫情的传播。
2. 为特别脆弱的人群：主啊，请保护我们的老年人和那些患有慢性病的； 供养穷人，特别是没有医疗保险的人。
3. 为年轻和强壮的人：主啊，给予他们必要的谨慎，防止他们在不知不觉中传播疾病； 激励他们愿意提供帮助。
4. 为我们的地区、州和联邦政府：主啊，帮助我们的政府官员晓得如何分配防治这场疫情必要的资源； 帮助他们提供更多的检测。
7. 为希望获得及时信息的读者：主啊，帮助我们找到最有用的当地信息，使我们成为好邻舍。 使我们远离焦虑和恐慌，使我们急事要付上代价也能够实践建议的措施。
13. 为在可预见的将来，有年幼子女的家庭：主啊，幫助父母親們有創意地合作，照顧和幫助孩童茁壯成長。 对于单亲家长，帮助扩展支持他们的网络。
20. 为前线医护人员，我们感谢神呼召他们服事我们。 我们也祈求：
Church, state, and health officials across the country disagree about drive-in services.
Pastor David Dale had to call the sheriff to get a clear explanation of how the new rules restricting public gatherings would affect his church. The Methodist congregation had transitioned from its building to a drive-in theater, but now there was a question whether that was okay.
“This new order prohibits any activity at movie theaters,” Dale said as he hung up the phone. “I think that shuts down the drive-in.”
The Centre, Alabama, congregation is among scores across the country that moved to parking lots and drive-ins to comply with restrictions put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
From Michigan to Texas, Wisconsin to California, and New Jersey to North Carolina, Christians have revived this 1950s fad as a way to gather without getting physically close enough to infect each other. They stay in their own cars, honk their amens, and listen to sermons on the radios.
But as more states moved to safer-at-home and stay-at-home orders, the revival of drive-in churches raised questions. Emergency orders vary by state and even by county. They sometimes change overnight, as local leaders work with public health experts to determine what constitutes a “public gathering” and what kinds of activities should be exempt. Several states have had political fights over whether or not religious gatherings should be defined as essential.
And even when the guidelines are set, elected officials, public health officials, law enforcement officers, and pastors don’t always agree on how to interpret them. Drive-in churches have become a kind of public hermeneutic problem, negotiated in the lead-up to Easter.
Days before the holiday, the owner of a Kentucky drive-in theater that ...
What are the most urgent things we can be doing as the church is scattered?
“The church has left the building.” We see this on church signs, hashtags, and t-shirt designs. It’s a great saying and an actual reality. I actually included some thoughts on it in my latest article on Religion News Service. But what are the most urgent things we can be doing as the church is scattered?
Here are ten things that you should have in place already—if you don’t, you are late and it is time to get going.
1. Leverage the Internet for your church.
Most churches already have services online, zoom or other technologies for small groups, and are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others for communication. Some make DVDs for shut-ins or department of corrections inmates with no wifi.
2. Do the same for the gospel.
Whatever your Internet tools—email, blogging, social media, etc.—this is the week to make much of Jesus. This is our time to show a hurting world the love of God that transcends a pandemic.
Here are a couple of specific things you can do: 1) Post your testimony of how you came to know Christ and how he is working in the middle of this crisis. 2) Do a post or email sharing the gospel. If you aren’t confident in doing that, you can say something like, “Jesus Christ changed my life; he gives me hope in a pandemic; and he loves you. Go here to learn more:” And click to a link like https://peacewithgod.net/ or ...
Due to a technicality, the head of La Luz del Mundo could be out on appeal.
A California appeals court ordered the dismissal of a criminal case Tuesday against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking on procedural grounds.
Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed apostle of La Luz del Mundo, has been in custody since June following his arrest on accusations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County. Additional allegations of the possession of child pornography in 2019 were later added. He has denied wrongdoing.
While being held without bail in Los Angeles, García has remained the spiritual leader of La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light of The World.” The Guadalajara, Mexico-based church was founded by his grandfather and claims 5 million followers worldwide.
It was not clear when he would be released.
The attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the court’s ruling and did not answer additional questions.
García’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said he and his client are “thrilled” by the decision.
“In their zeal to secure a conviction at any cost, the Attorney General has sought to strip Mr. Garcia of his freedom without due process by locking him up without bail on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations by unnamed accusers and by denying him his day in court,” Jackson said in a statement.
La Luz del Mundo officials in a statement urged their followers to remain respectful and pray for authorities.
“(W)e are not to point fingers or accuse anyone, we must practice the Christian values that identify us, such as patience, prudence, respect, and love of God,” they said.
The appeals court ruling states that the Los Angeles ...
Dezenas de milhares de pessoas clamaram pela salvação através de um click desde o início do surto. O aumento é temporário ou o prenúncio de maior testemunho do evangelho online?
Milhões de pessoas preocupadas que se voltaram ao Google ansiosas por causa do COVID-19 se conectaram com evangelistas cristãos em seus resultados de busca — levando a um aumento nas conversões online em março.
Nas Filipinas, uma mulher chamada Grace chegou a um site sobre o medo de coronavírus hospedado pela organização de evangelismo da Internet Global Media Outreach (GMO). "Por favor, ajude-me a não me preocupar com tudo", escreveu ela em uma conversa com um conselheiro voluntário. "O que está acontecendo agora é muito confuso." O conselheiro explicou que somente Jesus pode trazer paz duradoura, e Grace recebeu Jesus como seu Salvador.
Já nos EUA, uma voluntária da Associação Evangelística Billy Graham (BGEA) conversou on-line com uma jovem mãe chamada Brittany, preocupada com a possibilidade do COVID-19 tirar a sua vida e a de seus filhos. O voluntário ofereceu esperança e paz, e Brittany também aceitou a Cristo.
Três dos maiores ministérios de evangelismo on-line — OGM, BGEA e Cru — respondem cumulativamente por pelo menos 200 milhões de apresentações do evangelho na Internet a cada ano. Todas as três organizações afirmam que o número de pessoas que buscam informações on-line a respeito de Jesus aumentou desde que o surto do COVID-19 foi declarado uma pandemia no início de março.
Entre meados de março até o final do mês, o OGM registrou um aumento de 170% nos cliques nos anúncios de mecanismos de busca para encontrar esperança. ...
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Jesus established the church to be a community of believers, a family, to encourage each other in unity and to project His love to the world. As a family, our goal is to love each other without conditions or expectations