Dear Neighbours and fellow Ontarians:
I hereby cordially invite you to learn of the good news of Jesus Christ and experience the joy of Christian worship. We are opening the doors of Trinity Bible Chapel this Sunday when we will hold in-person Lord’s Day services at both 9:00 AM and 11:15 AM.
Ten months have passed since our provincial government called us to shutdown our regular lives for fourteen days to flatten the curve. Since that time, officials and media have provided regular updates on case and death counts. As of today, 98.03% of Canadians have not tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 99.9499% of Canadians have not died of COVID-19.
While I see every death as tragic, I believe that life is much greater than avoiding a virus. We will never get this time back, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. The focus on mitigating the risk of spreading this contagion has now superseded nearly every aspect of our lives. Commerce has slowed almost to a halt. Childhood education has been compromised. Families are forbidden from visiting each other. Weddings and funerals are impeded. Most importantly, as I pointed out in an earlier blog, the Christian Church is forbidden to exist in its most basic essence which is as a gathering.
People are lonely, afraid, despairing of life itself, and facing financial ruin, among many other deprivations and tribulations. This is all during the darkest and coldest season of the year. If ever our fellow Ontarians needed hope, it is now. Out of neighbourly love, I am personally openly inviting anyone and everyone to experience the hope of the Gospel and the warmth of Christian worship at Trinity Bible Chapel this Sunday during our two Lord’s Day services at 9:00 AM and 11:15 AM.
I understand that some will libel me as selfish and unneighbourly for making this offer. Please note that as a disciple of Jesus Christ I am fully committed to both the Golden Rule and Christ’s second greatest commandment: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Even as I am committed to obeying those commandments in faith, I am also committed to applying them in a way consistent with the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus visited the sick and lonely because He loves them. Jesus asks us to welcome the destitute because He is full of mercy. Jesus taught us to show hospitality to our neighbours because people need our presence. Jesus desires for us to gather together for worship because the church is a gathering. Jesus commands us to be together because He became a man to be with us. Not once did Jesus ever tell us to love our neighbours with saying, “Stay home. Stay safe.” In fact, He completed His earthly ministry by commissioning His disciples to go into all the nations to teach people His way of mercy and love (Matthew 28:18-20). He did this amidst the scorn of effete and sanctimonious Pharisees who libeled Him and demanded His crucifixion in part for spending time with unclean sinners. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbours, and Jesus has sufficiently taught us how to love our neighbours by His Word and example.
Risking reputation and financial viability to offer eternal hope and warm Christian fellowship to a world in despair is an act of love that I am certain Jesus smiles on.
Some have suggested that the church is not being specifically targeted by our government, and therefore we must set aside Christ’s command to meet for the sake of obeying the government’s command not to meet. Do people not gather at Walmart, at Costco, on movie sets, and at the Beer Store? Is the mission of the church not more important than a bottle of whiskey at the LCBO or a bag of Cheetos at the Dollar Store, both entities being deemed “essential” while the church is deemed “unessential”? How can one say the church is not targeted when these establishments are full of people? In Daniel’s time, King Darius decreed to “establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction” (Daniel 6:7) to cease public worship, irrespective of creed. Daniel openly and publicly resisted Darius under threat of being fed to lions (Daniel 6:10). In the end God vindicated Daniel (Daniel 6:25-28). Persecution by the state is generally not specifically targeted on Christians, but rather it targets those who dissent from state dogma. Christians have often found themselves under the ire of overreaching states, not because they are singled out, but rather because their allegiance to God transcends state doctrine. Nowhere does Scripture actually say Christians should only resist the state’s imposition upon the church if the state is specifically targeting them. Rather, we have historically resisted when the state forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids. In this case, the state has forbidden the church from existing because the church is not less than a gathering. Obedience to God over the state is necessary.
Some are very much in line with that thinking, but they wonder when such resistance is necessary. Should it not only occur after a specific timeframe? We have now been under some type of government restrictions for ten months. Christ’s public earthly ministry lasted roughly three years. We have been impeded by our government from fully discharging our duties for ten months now, almost one third of the time Christ spent publicly ministering to the crowds and to His disciples. I contend that that is far too long. I further contend that our government’s timeline and our government’s objectives in this effort can no longer be trusted. They regularly change deadlines of lockdowns ending even as they regularly change goals. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 12:12). How many deadlines have they now missed since this all began? Eventually one needs to ask whether he can be considered reasonable and wise to continue believing their promises. The acceptable timeframe for compliance has come and gone.
Trinity Bible Chapel exists to glorify God by fulfilling the great commission in the spirit of the great commandment. The great commission to go into the whole world with His Gospel is in full effect and has not been put on hiatus by this lockdown. The great commandment to love our neighbours must be upheld. I am choosing to love our neighbours and fellow Ontarians by inviting whoever reads this to church Sunday. To the lonely, to the downcast, to the impoverished, to the hopeless, to the downtrodden. To the Christians wanting to worship. To the curious who wonder what the big deal is. To the skeptic who would like to see a smile. Do you need to be around people? Do you need to have your spirits lifted? Do you need help? Do you need hope? Do you need encouragement? Would you like some light in the darkness? We as a church are eager to serve you.
We have, since our founding, provided an essential service to our members and to our community. We intend to continue to proclaim in word and deed the mercy of our Saviour, the forgiveness of sins by the cross, and the hope of eternal life in Christ to a broken world. Please come. Please be welcomed. Please have hope. Please know that you are loved.
Pastor Jacob B. Reaume
Sr. Pastor of Trinity Bible Chapel
P.S. Our Risk Mitigation Strategy to help prevent the spread of contagion will be in effect.