Wouldn’t you know that as we approach the infamous Ides of March that our planet is having to contend with a pandemic that has everyone on the edge of his seat, one that is about as far away from the next person as we can possibly get? The experts in the public health community refer to this tendency as “social distancing," and commend it as one that is in everyone’s best interest to practice.
In the midst of presidential elections and Daylight Saving Time (which is this Sunday, March 8, by the way), the topic on everyone’s mind is COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus. It certainly has been on mine. Part of it, of course, is my concern for my own health. But the larger part is my concern for how we manage the situation at church, much as other places where people gather in significant numbers on a regular basis have to do.
How is that some people seem so prepared to barge through open doors while others of us find them slamming in our face? Clearly, our level of readiness has something to do with whether or not we make it through those passageways. Some people seem never to miss those moments of opportunity, while others only know them after someone else has taken advantage of them first.
I have always been uncomfortable with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount where He speaks with His disciples about their need to strive for perfection. You remember the verse: “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The whole notion that any of us could strive to be equal to God in any respect boggles my mind. How could Jesus expect sinful folk to rise to this level of performance? It always seemed like in some way Jesus was setting us disciples up for failure, and massively so.
These last several days with this infernal rain have been agonizing ones for me. I’m normally a person who takes the weather as it comes, but the amount of rain we’ve received over the last week or so has somehow managed to get the best of me. Part of it may be my weariness over our recent move from one house to another, with all of the subsequent transitional matters that come along with it, most of which seems to have occurred in the rain. But part of it may be my having reached a stage in life where I’m becoming more aware of how so very many things seem no longer to be under my control as they once did and the inevitable exasperation such awareness brings. In other words, my frustration with the weather is just the tip of the iceberg for something much more significant going on under the surface of my soul.
Normally, when we think of making improvements, our minds turn to action. We ask ourselves questions like, “What can I do to become better?” But in the question itself lies the real secret to improvement, which explains why so many fall short in their attempts at doing better. In other words, improvement at anything is more an aspect of being than it is of doing. Work on the “becoming” part and the “doing” part gets remarkably easier.
Most of you reading this article are aware that this Sunday is “Super Bowl Sunday.” Even if you’re not a football fan, chances are that you’ll be like the vast majority of Americans, glued to the tube, or at least doing something with the game on in the background. Estimates are that around 115 million of us will be tuned in to the game, which represents almost 36% of the population – a staggering percentage when you stop and think about it.
A church always functions best and most faithfully when its members live out the teachings of Jesus. While it’s important for believers to think rightly, it’s perhaps even more critical that they live rightly. As the old saying goes, “Anyone can talk a good game.” What turns heads and hearts, especially in this day when people no longer grant as much respect to the church as in day’s past, is for people to align their verbal confession with their behavioral one.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is our primary denominational partner. As you know, CBF sees Mountain Brook Baptist Church as one of the most accomplished congregations associated with their “denomi-network.” In fact, our John Scott now serves as a member of CBF’s Governing Board, which is responsible for the administrative work of the entire body.
By now I would imagine that you’ve finished making your list of resolutions for 2020. If your list is like mine, it tends to be a recycled one. Somehow we get the feeling that every January we’ll find a renewed dedication to doing things we know are in our best interest, but always seem to be unduly difficult to complete.