Yesterday (7 July) the TEC, received official confirmation from the Department of Community Development that the compound in Mushrif has been approved to enter Phase 1 of the re-opening process. The first official gatherings at The Evangelical Church (TEC) will take place during the weekend of July 17th. We rejoice to hear this news!
One of my prayers from the very beginning of this pandemic was that the Lord would help us come out of our lock-down with a greater appreciation for the church and the blessing of gathering with one another as a corporate body.
I hope the Lord is answering this prayer in your life as he is in mine. As the government begins to relax some of the restrictions from this lockdown, churches will soon be able to go back together with some conditions. I am sure many of you will be hesitant and maybe afraid to go back immediatley and some careful consideration is always prudent.
With that in mind, I wanted to encourage you all with a few quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic book, LIFE TOGETHER. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German evangelical Christian who stood up to the Nazi party during WW2 and as a result was imprisoned and ultimately executed by them. His words have much credibility and relevance for us as we deal with the seperation caused by the coronavirus pandemic:
"So between the death of Christ and the last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the psalmist did, how they went “with the multitude…to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that keep holy day (Ps. 42:4).
"The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer…
"The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body…and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures…
"It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has
had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declares it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren… "
How blessed we are to be able to live in community in open fellowship and expereince this grace from our God in the UAE. Let us not disregard and tread under foot this unspeakable gift of God, the Church. "Let us [rather] consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."
As your pastor I long for the day we can gather and worship our Saviour together. We will keep you informed of any new updates and plans regarding when and how we can gather.
Until then keep considering how we can spur one another toward love and good deeds!
(Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Life Together. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1954, p. 18-20)