Worship Cancelled, God Still in Charge

Worship Cancelled, God Still in Charge

Last night the officers decided to suspend all gatherings, including worship, through April 26, after which we will review where we stand relative to the spread of the virus, and relative to state and federal recommendations/regulations. In the meantime, a virtual worship service will be live-streamed from the sanctuary each week, with all the usual elements of our worship, beginning at our regular time of 10:30a on Sundays. A link to the worship service will be on the first page of our website at, www.cpcissaquah.org. If you go there, you’ll see a link to “Remote Worship” where you will find resources for worshiping along with the live-stream. All else that we do — which of course involves people coming together with people before God — is suspended for now.

We’re working on ways to help you worship at home, to stay with and before the Lord in coming weeks, to stay in fellowship, and to be able to make known any needs you have. For questions or needs you may have right now, you can contact one of the pastors, or your shepherding officers. Those officers, by the way, will be checking in with you about once a week.

A few thoughts… While studying the book of Revelation a few years ago, I found it difficult to imagine 13:8, “…all who live upon the earth will worship [the beast].” Not because of the depravity of the act, which is not hard to imagine, but the unity of it. Since when has the entire world acted in unison on anything?

And yet here we are. A single idea rules the world, shaping the behavior of everyone everywhere. Yes, I’m sure there are holdouts in places, but for all intents and purposes we are unified. In an unthinkably short amount of time, the great gods of the global west, and increasingly the east, have fallen: personal freedoms are restricted, ever abundant goods, services, and finances are limited and dwindling, sporting events are cancelled, public assembly (a core tenet of democracy) is illegal in many states, the highways are quiet. All this is due to a single, unifying fact. If you had been at a New Year’s party a few months ago and someone had told you that all this would come to pass in the first quarter of 2020, you would have hidden his car keys.

The language is inadequate, but when the material world changes with such speed and deadly force, we refer to it as God’s “permissive” will. We’re trying to describe a world over which he rules, and yet humankind remains culpable for the evil therein. You can hear it in our hymn, This is My Father’s World: “…and though the wrong seems oft’ so strong, God is the ruler yet.” There’s no way to avoid the awkwardness (so it may feel to us) of God ruling over a world in which wrong continues. Attempts to ease the awkwardness — usually by diminishing God’s sovereignty one way or another — always end in bad theology which, in turn, undermines and ultimately destroys whatever tradition embraces it. People end up saying God is not really God, and soon after that there’s no point to worship — or anything else. Churches become vacuous community centers.

So we have to just say it: this is a hard moment, filled with sickness and death, and yet God is still God, and still in charge. Better to let him speak for himself: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Jer 46:9ff).

I do not pretend to know his purpose. I am praying over that daily at this point. But I do know this: moments like this make me realize that the unthinkable can become the thinkable very, very quickly. Moments like the one described in Revelation 13 are much more possible than we think they are. When God decides to accomplish his purpose, it’s going to happen in whatever way and timing he decides.

If we still have a battle in our hearts over letting God be God, I suppose this is difficult news. For myself, I am comforted by his sovereignty because if I’ve learned anything in my lifetime it’s that I make a bad god, even if I’m just trying to exercise my sovereignty around the house on a Friday afternoon. I trust him. I don’t have any affection for what’s happening, but I trust him. Let’s see where he takes this, and let’s continue to follow him closely. He’s the only one who knows where this is going, whose counsel will stand, and whose purposes will be accomplished.