The word going out these days is keep your social distance and by all means do not congregate!

That’s easy to say but difficult for us to do. As Christians we have a God-given desire to congregate. That’s why the church is called a congregation, both in the Old and New Covenant. We congregate!

The word congregate comes from the Latin words com meaning “together” and gregare meaning “to gather in a flock.” What a great term to use for the church. For the Lord our Shepherd gathers us together as a flock to protect and provide for us.

But it gets deeper than just that. Jesus says in John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus “knows” us in that he has a deep and abiding love for us. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and that love is given to us as his adopted children. Michael Reeves, in his book Delighting in the Trinity, puts it like this:

In Trinitarian theology, fellowship is the eternal, loving relationship that the three persons have with one another. From all eternity, each person of the Trinity has loved and has been loved by the other persons. In our redemption, by grace alone, we share in this fellowship. We are adopted by God the Father, receiving the same love he has had eternally for God the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

However imperfect it may be in this life, Christians have a union that reflects the union of the Godhead. We have a love for one another that reflects the love within the Godhead. And we have a joy when we are together that, again, reflects the joy within the Godhead. And that’s why we feel off-kilter when we cannot congregate on the Lord’s Day. When we are unable to gather together for whatever reason (quarantine, physical impairment, a sick child, etc.), we may sense a certain distance or isolation, however small, that we need to recognize and check. But how do we foster unity, love, and joy when we are apart? How do we congregate when we can’t congregate?

First, we recognize that we are already gathered together as a flock by our good Shepherd. It is a gift and status granted to us, and it is much bigger than our local congregation in Yorba Linda.  Second, we use the abundant means God has placed at our disposal: daily family devotions and weekly worship via video, praying for one another, emailing and calling one another, and more. 

And third, we remain steadfast and patient knowing that this coronavirus quarantine is but for a season. Whether we are together or apart, we are called to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).