This is to My Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
You might be familiar with John 15. It is Jesus’ description of Himself as the Vine and believers in Him as branches – it is about His love, and how all that we do now as believers in Him – how we grow – “stems” from the supply of His love. It was great to have VBS here last week seeking truth and finding Jesus! We are reopening our church facility in order to continue, in the fullest possible way, our relationship with Jesus, of seeking after Him and glorifying Him as a fellowship. Beyond VBS and worship services, and with proper precautions, we are resuming other kinds of indoor meetings, too. If you are part of a fellowship group and would like to resume meeting at the building, please reach out directly to Shirley Yee and the reopening committee and let them know. Our young people returned from Forest Home with a desire to see one another again. The reopening committee worked with their leaders and they will soon be meeting in person again. Other groups and gatherings will soon follow. In these and all matters of our life together, confidence in Jesus’ love for us is THE INDISPENSABLE SUPPORT we need to grow, get along, and attract others to Him. In this new era, we may not be able to quell every concern or meet every need, but we can take heart and make decisions about what we should do as a church so that we can continue to grow in His love.
As our church family comes back together and we rethink so much about our gatherings, we want to seek after the growth that the Spirit of Jesus will cause among us, the fruit that we should bear. The virus continues to destabilize, humble, and confound the powers and wisdom of the earth. Because of the variants of COVID-19 and vaccination rates, the pandemic has given way to the endemic. Infection rates are going to fluctuate for a long time. But our knowledge of God’s love is more powerful than we can ever imagine. We are not going to live in fear. We will be careful but not fearful. The world needs our message, and we must be faithful. Perhaps never before has the frail, faltering, fallen humanity of the earth ever been so confronted with the importance of receiving, accepting, and growing in and through the gospel we proclaim.
What should stem from the Vine and His love in our church family as it relates to gathering again? We need to accept one another and meet people wherever they are in their thinking and concerns, as best we can. Isn’t that what our Lord did and continues to do for us?! The Vine climbed down from heaven for us. The branches of a vine climb up but they climb down, too. As we grow in the Vine, let’s follow His example and climb down, too, wherever we can. Practically speaking this means that we continue streaming our services for families and people still at home, but let’s also think and pray about all we can do here at our facility to welcome everyone back. What about some shaded areas outside the building? Vines like shade! More comfortable shaded areas outside and around our building are being considered where we can welcome people and where people will feel they can safely meet after or before services to mingle for fellowship and conversation. Our Trustees are considering what we might be able to accomplish by the first Sunday of September.
We also need more ushers to help welcome and guide people when they come to our services. Right now the English ministry especially needs one person to direct and oversee the usher’s ministry. Would you consider serving as an usher or perhaps even leading our ushers?
If you have returned to in-person worship you have probably noticed one of the changes that we made coming back together again: the Lord’s Supper is at the opening of our gatherings on Communion Sunday. We are learning to do things a little differently than before, and it will take time (and people will need to be on time!). On the recent Communion Sunday, I sat in the balcony for the Cantonese and Mandarin ministries. I wanted to observe how things were done with communion at the beginning of worship. It was really quite wonderful and moving to hear their singing and joy as they observed the Lord’s Supper. In fact, I heard some songs and I’ve asked their song leaders for translations because even though I could not understand them, by the way they sang, I could understand them! And I thanked God for the privilege of witnessing it. It was an example of this text: believers in Jesus, abiding in His love. In all three services, we are very intentionally working to make communion a time to focus on Jesus’ special words of encouragement to us and, as His people, learning to abide in Him, to abide in His love. In his sermon on John 15:9, Charles Spurgeon describes abiding in Christ’s love as “the best wine” – allow me to read to you more fully what he says:
“The Savior was about to leave His disciples and this was the hardest trial which they had ever experienced. As there could be no trial to them like the loss of the Savior’s Presence, it was at this time Jesus brought forth His richest consolation. He seems to have kept the best wine and the most potent cordial till the time when their spirits most required to be comforted. He said to them more fully than He had ever said it before, “Take this for your comfort—live upon it while I am absent from you. Live upon it always—that as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you… there cannot be a more delightful thought that can fill the soul of a mortal than this—The Son of God loves me. … That God should pity me, I can understand, being so far inferior to Himself and so full of misery. That He should be generous to me, I can comprehend, from the liberality and bounty of His Nature and from my great necessities. But that He should love me is amazing! I cannot see anything lovely in myself and there are many who see that there is much ugliness about me—and I do not doubt that there is—and yet He who knows me better than I know myself and is not unmindful of my infirmities and weaknesses says He loves me!”
We can grasp heavenly philanthropy but not love! The Bible asks us to believe some remarkable things, about its authority, about God and humanity, about sin and death, about heaven and hell, about the incarnation of the Son of God and His death on the cross for our sins and by the power of God’s Spirit you believe it all! But now that you believe in Jesus you must try to believe this! You must ask for the Spirit of God to help your unbelief in His love. This really is the best wine, isn’t it!? This is what we can enjoy on Communion Sunday and in every part of our church life, on every Sunday and every day, with the help of the Holy Spirit, so to all the branches of our fellowship in Him, I say, “Let’s grow!”