March 20, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m writing you on behalf of the council about recent events concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Spring Valley Lake Community Center is closed to event group gatherings for the next two weeks. Therefore, in place of regular Sunday worship, we are encouraging individuals and families to conduct worship at home. To that end, we have posted a “worship guide” on our website — a modified version of our regular bulletin’s first service to help guide your home worship. I will also post a recording of the first service sermon by Sunday morning at 10:00 AM, which you will be able to access from the worship guide.
We believe that it is helpful to distinguish private Christian worship from corporate Christian worship.
All Christians have the privilege of worshipping God at anytime and anywhere they please because they are “priests” and “saints” of God, as the Scriptures describe. Peter writes about Christians, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). As Christians we are members of Christ by faith and are thus partakers “of His anointing, in order that [we] may confess His Name, may present [ourselves] a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him” (Heidelberg Catechism, QA32). Given that we Christians are members of Christ and His anointing, we can worship God through Christ individually or as a family. Since worship is defined as our service to God and His service to us, we must always offer up our prayers, hymns and Psalms according to God’s Word.
Christians also have the obligation to meet together every Sunday for corporate worship according to the fourth commandment, “keep the Sabbath holy.” This command is repeated in Hebrews 10:26: “[we are not to neglect meeting] together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25).
Corporate worship, like private worship, must be regulated by the Word of God. Each element in the service (preaching, prayers, the Sacraments, etc.) must be done according to what God has commanded in His Word. In the context of the worship service, Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:40, “All things should be done decently and in order.” The care, order, and regulation of the worship service arises from the fact that Jesus Christ promises to be with His people as they worship: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). And Jesus says this in conclusion to His commission for the church to baptize and teach what He has commanded (Matt. 28:19, 20). Finally, the official ministerial nature of Sunday corporate worship can also be discerned from Jesus’ teaching that the elders and ministers of the church are given the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,” which involve proclaiming the truth of God’s Law and Gospel and keeping believers accountable to the Word of God (cf. Matt. 16:19, 18:15-20; John 20:22, 23).
Given that our Sunday corporate worship cannot happen the next two Sundays without gathering together under the elders’ authority (they are given this authority according to Acts 20:28-32; Titus 1:5; Heb. 13:17) to hear preaching and partake of the Sacraments, we are left with private or family worship. This is not a bad alternative! To help our members (or other believers visiting our website) with worship in the next few Sundays, we have posted the worship guide for the first service and our sermon. The worship guide takes you through the service, which does not include the official ministerial portions such as the greeting, absolution of sin, and Sacraments. Even the sermon is not an official proclamation in the context of Sunday corporate worship, but is a sermon that God can use in your life nonetheless, as it will, we pray, encourage you as you hear about the Word of God.
Please let Pastor Tom know if you have any questions about worshipping the next two Sundays. In addition, please let him or any members of the council know if you have needs during this time. These times are trying, to be sure. But, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” (Ps. 46:1-2).
Pastor Tom, on behalf of the HDURC Council