Coronavirus, Church & State

March 20, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.”  Romans 13:1 “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together…”  Hebrews 10:25 One of the blessings that I have experienced over my long tenure serving as the pastor of RMBC, has been the graciousness of its people.  Rarely have I been confronted with second-guessing, or ungodly criticism concerning difficult decisions.  The decision to suspend our public gatherings has been among the most difficult, and once more, my brothers and sisters have demonstrated a grace which is worthy of the name “Christian”. Nevertheless, I feel it only right and proper, in the exercise of my duties as a shepherd of this flock, to seek to explain the Elders’ thinking in regard to this decision.  Perhaps what follows will in some small way, advance the edification and unity of our fellowship. The way of obedience is not always clearly delineated.  Sometimes decisions are forced upon us, and sometimes those decisions concern issues and events we have never before had cause to consider.  Even a month ago, the idea of suspending public worship for an indefinite period of time was something that had never crossed our minds.  If there were a class offered by my seminary entitled, “Leading Your Church through a Pandemic 101”, I must have missed it.  Neither do I recall the subject ever being addressed at a Pastor’s conference, and by the time books on the subject are written, God willing, we will be through it. So, there are no experts to whom local church pastors may turn. The best we can do in that regard is to turn to the past, and to search out the writings of those who lived centuries ago, and labored in the midst of their own pandemics, though they would have called their experience, the “plague”. I hope, in the near future, to do just that. But for now, the Elders of RMBC, like the leadership of every other local church, are trying to grope our way through the situation.  And the decisions we face are not always clear. There is a doctrine called the “Perspicuity of Scripture”.  That means that Scripture reveals its central truths clearly, and in such a way, and at such a level, that any minimally literate person may understand them.  And no, the irony of using a term no one understands to describe the ease with which people may understand is not lost on me.  Nevertheless, though Scripture is the lamp unto our feet, that light does not always shine as brightly as we might like.  Sometimes, though the light shines, our eyes may be too dim to see the way clearly.  We are currently walking a path which is new to us.  It has veered off in an unexpected direction, and, it seems, the way of faithfulness is not as clearly marked as we would like. This brings us back to where we began.  We find ourselves seeking to navigate our way between two Christian duties which seem, at present, to be in conflict.  We are exhorted both to submit to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1) which are telling us not to meet in groups of a certain size.  We are also commanded by the...

C.S. Lewis on the Coronavirus

March 17, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

(Obviously, Lewis knew nothing of the Coronavirus. But he did live and write at the beginning of the Atomic Age, and his thinking on the subject of the atomic bomb seems quite relevant to the situation of our day.  So, substitute “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus” and perhaps find some help in the words of one who wrote them 70 years ago.) In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds. — “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays Taken from:...

*****RMBC’s Response to the Latest NY State Restrictions****

March 16, 2020 | by

The message below was about to be sent when the latest restrictions were made public by an agreement between the states of NY, NJ, and CT.  Yesterday, you were asked to pray for wisdom for your Elders to make decisions regarding the ministry of RMBC in the light of the virus.  Those decisions have, in part, been made for us.  The agreement between the above-mentioned States includes a restriction upon all gatherings in excess of 50 people.  As a result, because we wish to submit to the governing authorities (Rom. 13), and because we want to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-40), RMBC will cease its Sunday morning corporate meetings until further notice.  We will continue to broadcast past services on Comcast and Verizon.  Also, the teaching ministry of RMBC will continue either through live streaming or by uploading video and audio recordings to YouTube and Sermon Audio, as usual.  In order to plan and establish our plans for the future of these online ministries, we will be cancelling our ladies and men’s Bible study for this week.  Our plan is to resume these studies next week.  Prayer meeting, being even more crucial now, will meet, but, out of an abundance of caution, we will return to meeting in the sanctuary, and until further notice, we will forego our fellowship meal. Obviously, things are, and will continue to be, in flux for some time.  We will be sure to make you aware of changes as they occur. Let me remind everyone that while we will not be meeting together on Sunday morning, this does not mean that we cannot worship.  Every moment of our lives are to be offered up as worship to our God.  Every act, every thought, every word.  Likewise, let us continue to worship in those ways we would worship together if it were possible.  Avail yourself of sound teaching. Read the Word.  Pray. Sing. Yes…and give. Our bills, and our missionaries needs, will not disappear because of this virus.  Drop off your offerings to the office, if that is convenient, or do so by mail.  We are entering a time of great change, but our Lord does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Be at peace. Our God reigns. And now, please continue reading that which was originally going to be sent on its own. Nothing that has occurred this morning, impacts anything written below. ******************************************************************************** As was stated during our gathering yesterday, we will be keeping in touch with the fellowship regarding the present situation as there are changes made to the ministry or information that we believe might be helpful. So, don’t neglect to periodically check your email, or mailbox.  We’ll also be adding information to our webpage. This morning, there are two things we’d like to mention: First, if you were not in attendance yesterday, please make a point of watching or listening to the message from Exodus 39:32-43 whenever they are uploaded to Sermon Audio or YouTube.  There are several applications made in that message regarding our response as a church and as individual Christians to the Coronavirus. Second, in our desire to care for one another, we would like to establish something we will call the “Acts 6 Ministry”.  You will remember that in the sixth chapter...

Statement from the Elders of RMBC concerning the Coronavirus

March 16, 2020 | by

Like everyone else, your Elders have been talking and thinking about our response to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus.  Individuals are making decisions regarding their own behaviors and those of their families.  Sports leagues and entertainment venues such as Broadway theaters are making decisions concerning how they will proceed, with many simply canceling the remainder of their seasons.  And of course, political office-holders are having to make decisions about governmental policy, from school closings to immigration. As the Elders of RMBC, we have a unique responsibility that goes beyond those considerations. Our responsibility, in part, is to put this situation into biblical perspective.  In fulfillment of that responsibility, allow us to remind you of certain pertinent truths.  When we have done that, we will then address some practical issues in regard to RMBC, so please read to the end of this statement. We must always, of course, begin with the person of God.  We begin with Him because He has revealed Himself to be the creator, sustainer, and the ruler of the universe.  We begin with Him because He is sovereign over all things, and that includes the Coronavirus.  When the first person became infected, God did not say, “Uh, oh. What do I do now?”  Like the cross of Christ, and the election of His people, this virus was a part of His eternal decree. That being the case, we also know that there is a divine purpose in this event.  In fact, we can be sure that our God has innumerable purposes in all that He does. He has purposes for individuals, for nations, and for His Kingdom.  This virus is not random, nor is it meaningless. But if God is good, as we know Him to be, how can we explain such a thing?  When God created the world, did He not call it “good”?  Indeed, He did. But after that declaration, an event occurred which changed everything.  Our first parents fell into disobedience, and the world fell with them.  The Coronavirus is one consequence of that fall.  As wonderful as this world is, and as much as it continues to bear that mark of its Creator, it also bears the marks of the Fall.  Illness and death are but two of those marks. “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.”  Psalm 103:15-16 These truths remind us of another.  We are not in control.  We would like to be.  Sometimes we might deceive ourselves into thinking that we are, but that is merely an illusion.  There are things that we can and should do to minimize our exposure to this virus, but we can’t live in a bubble. And who is to say whether some other threat will come along after this one?  We ought to take responsible actions, but in the end, we can guarantee nothing. Our lives are in His hands, not our own. This situation also serves as a reminder that our lives and our world are interconnected.  The measures currently being taken by individuals may affect others whom that individual does not even know.  How many businesses are being affected because people are...

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