Responding in Crisis: Solemn Assemblies
So where do we go?
I think this is where many of us our struggling. Our natural inclinations in a normal crisis would push us closer to others in the church or push us to share the Gospel with those who don’t have it. This crisis, though? We’re being told that the most loving, compassionate thing we can do is to hide ourselves from others. While I understand the science behind why, I think many people are having a hard time knowing what to do in this moment.
God’s Answer in the Crisis
God has an answer for crises throughout human history and we find them in the book of Joel. Yesterday, we looked at the crisis that broke out in Joel’s day and what it means for us. Today, I want to take a look at a specific action he called on the nation to take: Sacred Assemblies.
After Joel reminds the nation depth of judgment they’ve been in, Joel tells the people how to respond:
Consecrate a fast,Joel 1:14, New American Standard Bible
Proclaim a solemn assembly;
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the Lord your God,
And cry out to the Lord.
What is a solemn assembly? It’s where everyone suspends business as usual and gathers together to return to the Lord. Joel later says,
‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord,Joel 2:12-14, New American Standard Bible
‘Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.’
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
Who knows whether He will not turn and relent
And leave a blessing behind Him…
God has an answer for the crisis in front of us and it’s not only to sit in front of our TV’s and wait for sickness to past. We are being called to assemble before God, call a fast, and repent. The point is not to perform a religious ritual. The point is to enter in to a process of repentance. God’s answer for the crisis is for us to use it as a time to turn us back to God. This is really not all that different than what Jesus said about the crises that disciples asked Jesus about. “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:5).
Solemn Assemblies in Light of Covid-19
This particular crisis is full things that we haven’t seen before. One of them is the nature of the crisis seemingly demands that we separate rather than gather. How do we gather solemn assemblies in the hour of Covid-19?
As of this writing (7:00 AM on 3/24/2020) the CDC is recommending not meeting in groups larger than 10 people to prevent the spread of this infection. This obviously limits the size of solemn assemblies, something we’ve seen generally in the hundreds, especially in times of crisis. Some states and cities have shelter in place orders that are not allowing for people to leave their homes at all.
The answer is to still call solemn assemblies. We just need to make them smaller.
We need a two pronged approach. There’s still a place for many in our nation to gather together in groups of ten or less and pray in their homes. For those that have this freedom and are not in the category of immuno-compromised individuals, I would suggest gathering together to pray. Gather together with fellow believers. Much of the world has been changed in the past when small groups of believers gather together and pray. Fast and pray together. Seek the Lord for your city’s welfare, for the welfare of your church, and the welfare of this nation.
For those who are in shelter in place states/cities or are in an immuno-compromised state, as much as I hate to admit it, now is the time to take advantage of existing technology to gather in groups and pray together. Zoom, a video conferencing solution used in business is getting a lot of air time lately. They have free and paid options. You can find alternatives for Zoom here. Use these technologies in conjunction with other believers to gather together and pray.
The crisis is too great to sit on the sidelines.
What This Will Require
This will require a new level of leadership from those who have never thought they were leaders. There will be those who have never started something that will be required to stick out their neck and try something they’ve never done. There will be people who have never prayed out loud before that will need to pray out loud. You will find yourself doing things that you only thought pastors needed to do in the past. None of this is bad, it’s just uncomfortable. Remember, we are in an hour like no other. It will require us to do things we’ve never done before.
Who knows whether the Lord will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him?
Consecrate a fast.
Gather the elders.
Cry out to the Lord.