It is difficult to believe that October is coming to an end. This means, not only that tomorrow is Halloween (assuming that some will still go out to Trick-or-Treat even with COVID-19 still lingering) but, for the Church tomorrow is Reformation Day. For those who would like to explore more of the meaning of the Reformation, I would encourage reading some or all of these short articles: 3 Things Every Christian Should Know About the Reformation, What the Reformation As About in 3 Minutes, The Reformation Rescued the Gospel, How Women Helped Bring Us the Reformation, and/or Why We Need a New Reformation. For those who want a good, simple resource to share with your kids, I would encourage showing them the claymation video The Story of Martin Luther. (Run time: 4 minutes, 32 seconds.)
This coming Sunday, November 1, on the Ecclesiastical calendar is All Saints Day – a day that is observed by many Christians throughout the world, not as an occasion to “invoke the saints” (as some erroneously may do,) but to give thanks to God for all who have gone before us, and to celebrate our unity with the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” – both past and present-day – that Hebrews 12.1 speaks of. Appropriately, concurrent this year with All Saints Day is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church – a remembrance of and prayerful intercession for those from around the world who experience severe persecution simply because they are followers of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12.26 tells us that when one part of the Body of Christ is hurting, the whole Body is hurting. So it is not only appropriate but, perhaps it is the least we can do to take a day to pray for these present day Cloud of Witnesses. Two resources to help praying for those persecuted are Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. (Worth particular notice on the Open Doors website is the World Watch List, which lists and gives detail about the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is currently most intense.) I will also note that on this All Saints Day the focus should not be on extraordinary achievements of particular Christians, but rather on the grace and work of God in and through ordinary people.
At Grace Covenant this Sunday, November 1, we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. We do this because we have committed the first Sunday of each month to centering our worship around the Lord’s Table. While there will be a message, it will not be part of our series in Romans, and will be much shorter, (which may be a pleasant change for some,) and designed to focus our attention on the grace promised to those who come to the table in a “worthy manner”. As such, the Session (Council of Elders) at Grace Covenant urges everyone to take some time over the next few days to both examine your own life and heart, and to give thought to the meaning of and promise associated with the Lord’s Supper. To that end, two good short articles I would encourage everyone to read between now and Sunday morning are 10 Things You Should Know About the Lord’s Supper, and What Should I Think About During the Lord’s Supper? Please remember that, during this season that COVID-19 remains a threat, our Elders invite those who are Believers in Christ, and who are members in good standing with a Bible-affirming church, and who are worshipping with us via LiveStream, to participate with us. For those who worship with us from home, please plan in advance and set aside your grape juice/wine and the bread (or matzah) you will be using for communion. We strongly urge you to set these elements aside before you begin to worship, in a place you can easily access them when we begin to serve communion during the service. We discourage just using some of the stuff you may be having for lunch a while later.
Two final things:
First, with the holiday season soon to be upon us, we are preparing for our participation with Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child. Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child are available 1) in the Commons, 2) at the exit doors to the sanctuary, 3) by the benches on the front porch (for those who are socially distancing, and who want to pick up a box with minimal contact with others), or 4) contact Ron Pohl or Rod Linniken for home delivery. One other option is to Build Your Shoebox Online, although we encourage participating through the church, if possible. Those new to participating in Operation Christmas Child might benefit from checking out the instructions from Samaritan’s Purse: How to Pack a Shoebox.
Finally, as most are keenly aware, Tuesday November 3 is Election Day in the United States. I have received numerous questions and requests to “speak up” about the candidates and the issues, as no doubt has Camper. We understand and appreciate the passion, and the importance of this (and every) election. But at Grace Covenant we have intentionally committed ourselves to a gospel-centered ministry that aims to shape the church and equip Christians in relation to the gospel. As the gospel shapes the individual Christian, each of us has an opportunity – a responsibility really – to “love our neighbors” by participating in the process of voting, a privilege that is ours by the providence of God, and a privilege that a relative few have had throughout history and throughout the world. We have our opinions but, for the sake of the gospel, Camper and I have each chosen for forgo expressing them publicly so as not to confuse anyone about what the gospel is and what are our individual ideas of how the gospel should be worked out in the public square. We take this posture not out of fear, but out of love – love for you, and love for Jesus. That said, we – both Camper and I, and the Session of Grace Covenant – urge you to vote. And in voting, we urge you to consider all the issues, and to think through which positions in the respective platforms seem most in line with the gospel, and with God’s Holy Word, and then to vote your consciences. After voting, we urge that we all trust God and give thanks that God is in control regardless of who wins (read Psalm 2); pray for God to be glorified in any outcome; and then seek the unity of the Church, as Jesus prayed for us to be One (John 17) and as he instructed those who are his followers to “Love One Another” (John 13.34-35) Stand for Truth & Justice! But remember: It is by our humility, our love for one another, and our oneness, that the gospel will be on display – and that the world will know who belongs to Jesus.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor