Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
The other day I was in a conversation—via Zoom, of course—with a few of my fellow Cooperative Baptist pastors here in North Carolina. We spent most of our time talking about the logistical, financial, and spiritual challenges of trying to be the church in the midst of a pandemic.
We also talked about stuff we’ve tried that has worked—and stuff we’ve tried that hasn’t worked. Across the state, it appears that, these days, we’re all improvising.
That said, I especially appreciated what one of my colleagues in the conversation had to say about a crucial attitude adjustment he recently made: “I had to shift from thinking about what we can’t do, to concentrating on what we can do.” From what we can’t do to what we can do. From what we don’t have to what we do have.
From what we aren’t to what we are. There’s a profound difference between these two ways of seeing the world. The former assumes scarcity—and goes from there. The latter assumes abundance—and goes from there. Only one of these world views is biblical. Hint: It’s not the one that comes naturally to most of us.
The New Testament proclaims abundance. Jesus invites us to put our trust in God, on a daily basis for our daily bread. In the book of Acts, we see the earliest Christians joyfully sharing what they have so that everyone gets what they need. The apostle Paul urges us not to worry but, instead, to lift up our prayers to God with thanksgiving.
We’re discovering, though, that a pandemic puts all this New Testament teaching about abundance to the test. These last few months have been hard on everyone—for some more than others—but, in the midst of it, God has been faithful to us. We all have reasons to be grateful, blessings to count, and prayers of thanksgiving to offer up to God.
That’s why we are going to gather for outdoor worship on Sunday evening, August 9, to practice being grateful. It’s the best way—the most biblical way, really—to reorient ourselves toward abundance and away from scarcity, toward what God provides and away from what we lack, toward faith and away from fear.
Here’s how we’ll do it. We’ll begin at 6:00pm on the softball field. Bring lawn chairs, wear masks, and practice social distancing. We’ll have live music. We’ll sing hymns together, pray together, and listen together. There will be opportunities for us to tell our stories about God’s faithfulness over these last few months (back in the day, we Baptists used to call these stories “testimonies”). And, for the first time since March 1, we will share the Lord’s Supper together, using safe, pre-packaged, individual servings of bread and juice. It’s been a long time since we had communion in worship—but, then again, it’s been a long time since we have been gathered as a worshiping community.
I love how Paul makes a direct connection between thankful spirits and peaceful hearts. Indeed, grateful people tend to be joyful people—and joyful people tend to be in tune with the abundance that Jesus promises to those who come to him in faith. This grateful, abundant way of looking at the world may not come naturally to us—but, like any habit of the heart, it can be developed.
So, let’s work on it together. I look forward to seeing you, worshiping with you, and being grateful with you on August 9.
May the peace of Christ be with you!