May 23, 2020

Dear Friends,

I saw Michael Jordan play in person once.

We had gone to San Antonio for Mary Ann’s sisters wedding. It just so happened that the Chicago Bulls were in town while we were there. In those days, the San Antonio Spurs played their games in the Alamodome. It’s a football arena that can hold more than 70,000 people. For basketball games, they typically set up the arena to seat a little over 20,000 fans. But with MJ in town, they expanded the seating chart. I was there that night with 35,887 other people who had come mostly to see Michael.

We were in the cheap seats. I don’t remember what we paid for our tickets, but it wasn’t much. And the view from our seats wasn’t much either.

That particular game was on national TV. Jordan’s highlights from that particular game (he scored 38 points) are on line for all to see today, more than 25 years after the game took place. Anyone who stayed home and watched the game on TV saw a lot more of it that I did from the nosebleed section.

So why did all 35,000 of us shell out money to sit far away from the basketball court that night, and barely see a game we could have stayed home and watched for free?

Because there is something special about being present at the game. It’s the reason a lot of people pay tens of thousands of dollars to buy season tickets for live sporting events that the could see more clearly on their big screens at home in 1080p. There just nothing like being at the game.

What’s true for sporting events is even truer whenever God’s people gather for corporate worship.

Watching church on your TV at home is great. I was thinking this week about how grateful I am that years ago, long before there was a global pandemic, Lance Talkington suggested that we start live streaming our weekly worship services. I wondered at the time if it was somehow pretentious for a little church meeting each week in rental space above the revenue office to put our services on line. But as the years passed, I found myself grateful that Mary Ann and I could tune in those times when we were traveling and couldn’t be at church. I was glad when people who had to stay home for health or personal reasons tuned in at joined us. The live streaming of our services was a way to keep us connected during times when we had to be apart.

I just never imagined there would be ten weeks in a row when all of us would have to be apart.

The fact that we had been live streaming our services for years made it easier for us to stay connected as a church during COVID-19.

And now, as we prepare to reopen our church and re-gather for worship this Sunday, I’m grateful that we can continue our live streaming for all those who will choose, for good reasons, not to come and be part of our live service.

But for those who are able to come, we will experience our time of worship together in a way that just can’t happen via live stream.

Megan Hill, a pastor’s wife who lives in Massachusetts, wrote a book that was released last week called A Place To Belong: Learning To Love The Local Church. And this week, Megan wrote an on line article called What’s So Special About Church. In the article, she argues that in gathered corporate worship, God is more glorified than He is in private devotional worship. She suggests that the Sprit of God is present in corporate worship in a unique way. And she reasons that public worship is ultimately more edifying than private worship.

For those and other reasons, I am excited that this Sunday many of us will be together again. I believe that re-gathering will be a special time for all who are able to attend.

Last week, I shared with you our reopening guidelines and protocols. I trust you had a chance to read it. If not, you can read it again or download it here. You’ll need to plan to arrive early – 9:45 am would be perfect. Bring your mask (that’s something that just sounds wrong to say. Isn’t church where we’re supposed to take off our masks?). You might want to bring a water bottle or two. The water fountains are off limits for now. And if you want coffee at church, bring your own.

Be prepared. It’s going to feel strange coming to church, wearing masks and social distancing. But I also believe it will be a time of joy and thanksgiving to be back in our church home, meeting together to sing, pray, study and take communion together.

And let’s continue to pray that God will bring an end to this pandemic soon so that we can all safely stand side by side once again – a foretaste of what is ahead for us in eternity as God’s family.

Back pre-pandemic, I began making plans to lead a summer study of Rebecca McLaughlin’s award winning book Confronting Christianity. While we keep our social distancing in place, we’re moving forward with plans for this six week book study to begin on Monday night, June 8 at 7:00 pm. Here are the details.
We may or may not be able to live stream the study for those who aren’t able to attend in person. We’re working on that and we’ll let you know.

In the meantime, you can order a copy of the book by clicking the link above. We’ll plan to read two chapters each week, and you’ll want to have the first two chapters read before our first session.

Finally, take a second look at the questions this book tackles. You may have friends or co-workers who don’t regularly attend church but who would be intrigued by this study. We want this study (and everything we do at Redeemer) to be a safe place for people with honest questions about the Christian faith to come and explore and engage.

If you have questions about the study, contact me or Pastor Matt.

From the miracle of the loaves and fishes that we looked at last week to the miracle of walking on water in a rainstorm that we’ll explore this week, the Gospel of John forces us to wrestle with the central question of this book – just who exactly is this Jesus?

See you (in person or on line) Sunday!

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Bob

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