Should we gather or should we not? Is it safe to get together? As Thanksgiving approaches, this decision weighs heavily on the minds of families across our country. The thought of not being together during this time conjures up more visions of pain and yet we ask: Is it safe?
To gather. Dictionary.com gave me two different definitions for this word
- to bring together into one group, collection, or place:
- to assemble from various places, sources, or people; collect gradually:
We get together for all kinds of reasons: sometimes that reason is for comfort.
In John 20:19 the disciples gathered together: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews…” The followers of Jesus were scared and stuck, traumatized by a scenario they hadn’t see coming. It certainly was not safe to get together!
Weeks ago, their leader was gaining momentum. Each day more and more people were believing Jesus was who He claimed…the Son of God. Messiah. The One they had waited hundreds; thousands of years for. Crowds swelled when He was present. More and more were believing every day. Crowds cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Even as I read John 12:13, I can picture the electric energy of the crowd. Our king has come! This crowd had seen Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. Now they were calling Jesus their leader.
Days later, the apostles get together…traumatized. Confused, exhausted, weary … numb. Dazed, they sit in silence and wonder what will happen next.
I imagine the thoughts swirling around the stagnant room. Murdered at only 33 years old, their beloved leader was gone. Brutally, publically murdered and now, association with Him forced them into hiding.
Here Comes Jesus!
Here, in this sorrow-filled place of getting together, Jesus came. They had just witnessed His death; the shattering of their hopes and plans. Then He appeared, bringing peace with Him.
Jesus brought peace.
Later, He physically left them again and went back to His Father, but before He left “…he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)
Jesus had given them a command with a promise attached to it. They were to get together and wait expectantly for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I wonder if they had any idea what they were waiting for? This is the first time in Scripture we see this combination of phrases. They had heard of and witnessed baptisms. Scripture spoke of the Holy Spirit, but here is the first time they hear of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Why did it mean? What did it even look like?
I love that the disciples probably didn’t know, but they obeyed. They followed Jesus’ command. They gathered and they waited. It didn’t matter how they felt. (When I feel sad, I don’t want to get together with others. I want to be by myself; alone with my thoughts and my pain. I’m so glad that even if the disciples felt the same way, they gathered!)
Yes, they came together. But they didn’t just hang out together. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Acts 1:14 (ESV)
Anything But Predictable!
While some of these gatherings were predictable, simply following through with what they knew was the right thing to do, one gathering was not. It was supernatural.
Acts 2:1-4: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
When they came together, the Holy Spirit met them and empower them. They received, as the Holy Spirit came, gifts, and power that they did not have before.
The Holy Spirit brought power.
The result of this new, fresh, now in-dwelling power? Gifts and power that they did not have before. The ability to move on from the trauma, disappointment, weariness, and exhaustion. Greater still, the gospel, the Good News of forgiveness and brand new life in Jesus, spilled out of that gathering. Acts 2:37 – 38 shares Peter’s power-induced sermon, with the gathered crowd responding: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …” Verse 41 reports 3,000 souls were added to the newly forming body of Christ that gathered that day.
Out of the apostles’ weariness, brokenness, exhaustion, and trauma, Jesus, through the peace He brought with His appearance after the resurrection and now through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, brought salvation and power as they had never experienced.
And it all started from the place where they gathered. When the believers gathered – whether they felt like it or not, Jesus performed miracles. In each of them and through each of them. He brought them the peace and power they needed.
Should we be gathering too, then?
I’ll admit there are some Tuesday nights when I don’t want to gather on another ZOOM call for my Changed Choices Bible study. We’re weary from doing life differently; exhausted from reinventing, pivoting, and changing course from the working systems we created! The trauma from the global pain of COVID and our nation’s pains of racial tensions and the elections; it’s been a lot and it has been one exhausting year.
This upheaval, is it a shove of sorts to get us out from under our systematic spirituality? A push to get us beyond the independent ways of our own problem solving so that we would gather together? Could COVID’s causing us to come together be part of God’s plan to get us to lean on each other; be dependent on one another? Or even greater yet, for us to gather together so that we can experience the greatness of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit and His power … together? (And by together, I am not advocating for in-person gathering, but using technology and those devices we have in our hands continually and actually calling one another. 🙂
I know I need the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever. I’ll be honest, my hustle is hollow. My normal “get-‘er-done” strengths depleted. I need the strength that comes from gathering with other Christ-followers for prayer and studying God’s word. I’m guessing you do too!
Jesus told us in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV) This word, this promise to us, di void with COVID. The Bible’s promises and commands do not contain a COVID clause. In fact, the need for us to gather has never been more pressing! And so we still gather. For many of us, not in person the way we would like and prefer, but we are together.
Why We Gather
When we are intentional and gather together, however that looks right now, we remind one another of the truth of who we are: His. We remind one another of whose we are; image-bearers of Almighty God. We are carriers of the Spirit of God; bringing Good News of salvation and new life through the Son of God. Another social media meme or putting up a post won’t work. We need personal interaction where the power of the Holy Spirit is present.
Learn the technology that allows us to “be together”. Call those in the body of Christ! We need each other!
You are an essential part of the body of Christ. You are a living, breathing, vibrant part of the family of God. This family needs your prayers, your gifts, and the Holy Spirit that indwells you.
Hebrews 10:24 – 25 tells us, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” ESV
This is why we gather.
I’d love to hear how you are gathering during this season. Let’s encourage one another right here in the comments below!