The very first Christians did not meet in large buildings or cathedrals as we do today. Their music was not accompanied by the organ, piano, praise team, or even YouTube videos. The only Bibles they had were what they had memorized, perhaps the odd copy of an Old Testament in Greek (the Septuagint), and if they were fortunate enough, a copy of one of Paul’s letters (or any of the other church leaders for that matter). They regularly celebrated the Lord’s Supper, catechized and baptized new members of the community, and shared communal-family meals together. But none of this took place in a church building. Much of this happened in their homes:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV, 2011), Acts 2:44–47.
Forced by circumstances beyond our control, the church is again meeting in homes, albeit in a much different way than our forebears did. Yesterday, as you gathered in your homes for worship, some of you may not have bothered to get out of your pajamas, others may have still worn their Sunday best, and still others somewhere in the middle. Only you know ;o). It was – most likely – only your immediate family who gathered with you. Also, unlike the early church, you did not gather under cover of darkness for fear of the authorities discovering you (unless you had a group larger than 50 in your home). Many, if not all, of you had at least one Bible with you – a copy of the Old Testament and the New Testament (ALL of Paul’s letters plus the Gospels, Acts, and the letters of Peter, James, Hebrews, Jude, and John’s letters and apocalypse!!!) – that you could read along with during the liturgy and the preaching of the sermon. You either sang along with YouTube, sang your own songs, or listened as others ministered to you through their musical gifts in the glorifying of God. All of this happened in your homes.
Prior to this pandemic, for many of us the suggestion to meet in our homes for worship would have been considered ridiculous or undermining what it means to be the church. Some may have even considered it radical. But the changes that have drastically come about in our world over the last 2 weeks have forced us not only to rethink our opinions of such notions, but also forced us to quickly become more creative in how we do church. It is forcing us to think in the most basic terms what it means to be the church when we cannot see each other face-to-face. What once may have been considered ‘radical’ is now reality. But I really would consider this concept to be radical in the truest sense of the term. Did you know that the original meaning of the word “radical” was “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root”? In this respect, meeting in our homes truly is a radical idea.
As to what the coming weeks hold, your guess is as good as mine. But,
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV, 2011), Heb 10:23–25.
Let’s take advantage of this amazing opportunity to minister to one another from a place of hospitality, care, and openness: our homes. It is my hope and prayer that the time spent at home together over the coming weeks will prove fruitful, meaningful, and enlightening for all of us as we take stock of what really matters and return to our roots as the Christian church. God is nowhere near done with us yet. May we turn our eyes towards him, the author and perfecter of our faith, knowing that he will continue to draw us near to him during this trying time!