May 18, 2020

The Great Congregation

Then I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.
—Psalm 35:18

"I can commune with God much better alone in nature than I can in a church with all those hypocrites." I can't tell you the number of times I've heard that one. And though most people aren't communing with nature, they've certainly had enough alone time recently—including most Christians who previously gathered with other members of the body of Christ on a regular basis. And all this isolation from the hypocrites of the church has proven to most of us imperfect people just how much we need all those other imperfect people.

My expectation during this period of sheltering in place was that we would be lonely for one another. But God has done a new thing in the church: The church is still alive and present for just about all of us, even though we haven't seen each other in two months. Our spiritual togetherness is real. The great congregation is no less a "thing" now than it was the last time we worshiped in the church building.

Our prayers—especially those of gratitude—are not prayed alone. Though our eyes don't see the cloud of witnesses surrounding us, we feel that we are nonetheless part of a mighty throng praising God.

Christians are still no better than anybody else. There will always be a certain degree of hypocrisy on the part of imperfect people who claim to have faith in the Perfect One. But now, more than ever, we see that that faith makes a difference. We are truly not alone, even in isolation. And so I will thank God in the great congregation of those I can't see, but who I know are still gathered all around me. Along with this mighty throng, I will praise the Lord.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me a place among your people. And thank you for reminding me, even in isolation, that I am never alone; in the Name of Christ who taught me to pray: Our Father...

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