Latest Letter from Craig from March 22, 2020

Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Charleston, SC, Sermon Response

Hello, Redeemer.

Wow! What a week! Last week we were wondering IF we should cancel church. One week later we can’t believe it was even a question. Our emotions are everywhere. Everyday brings more serious reports about the spread and the effects of COVID-19. At the beginning of the week, Kathy and I were hosting people in our home, now we aren’t hosting anyone. Other than going to the grocery store and standing outside my mother’s assisted living so she can see me through the window, Kathy, Brooke, and I are staying close to home. I hope you are making that same commitment. It is difficult…frustrating…inconvenient…boring…unnerving, but in light of the help it can bring in halting the spread of this terrible virus, staying close to home is really not much of a sacrifice to make.

Not only have my emotions been all over the place this week, so have the plans for this Sunday: 

Plan 1 – Stand in the pulpit and video a sermon preached to an empty sanctuary. At the end of the day, this option was just too inauthentic for me. It seemed more like just checking a box… having a sermon for the sake of having a sermon. To preach to no one is TO ME not preaching. Preaching is an interaction of the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God (including the preacher). I believe something special and mysterious happens in that setting. Without the people of God present, it really isn’t preaching. TO ME. Others feel differently. 

Plan 2 – Send out a bulletin with links to songs and a sermon. I abandoned that plan when I discovered that Fred (video equipment, lights, etc. in hand) and my family were available to come to my house to live-stream worship from my living room. I proceeded with that plan until I heard that three pastors at a local church have the Coronavirus. Out of the best of intentions, they forged ahead with worship last week. Two of the pastors served Communion to hundreds of people. I decided then that I would not ask my family or Fred to come over for the sake of producing a video. Well-intentioned, godly people can still get and spread this virus.

Plan 3 – Craig would video himself. (You probably don’t have to read any further to know how this one ends).  I don’t have time to write, and you don’t have time to read the ridiculous things that kept happening while I was trying to pull off this plan. So…

Plan 4 – Back to plan 2. That is what you see before you. Click here for worship guide.

Before I proceed to talk about the worship guide, I must take time to mention that the elders at Redeemer are GREAT. They are prayerful and very supportive. They all had great ideas about what to do this week, but since we cannot get together to work on this project together, they graciously left it to me to do whatever I could best work out. And Gray. Well, what can I say? She gets all this information thrown at her, and no matter when she gets it somehow she processes it and gets it out to you!

Now to the worship guide before you. Whether you are alone, with a roommate, spouse, or family, please use this as a guide for worship. As you work your way through it, you have an opportunity to pause and reflect in ways you would not have in a corporate worship service. You can linger over and talk about each element of worship. For instance:

Call to Worship What is it? Why are we called away for a special time of worship? Who calls us to worship? What does that call communicate about God? About how He views us? 

Singing What are the reasons we sing as part of worship? What do you think the purpose of music in worship is? Pause after songs to talk about the lyrics. 

God’s Will for Us Read through the printed passage and talk about the ways your life is in line with what God speaks. Talk about the ways your life is out of line with what God says. If you find your life is out of line with God’s will, make every area of misalignment a matter of confession and ask the Lord to bring your life more in alignment with God’s will.

Words of Assurance Why are these words a vital part of worship? Why is it so important to God that we have assurance of our forgiveness? What are the effects in our lives if we are not sure of our forgiveness? Why do we find it difficult to believe we are forgiven?

Offering Take time while you are worshiping to write your check to the church or use the links to give electronically. Talk about why we should give. Talk about why we give as part of our worship.

Bible Project This video will be great to use with families. In addition to the video you will find other material and great questions. You might choose to skip the Tim Keller sermon and just do this. Bible Project provides a great opportunity for family interaction.

Sermon As you watch this video, I suggest you stop it often to discuss ideas that resonate with you or to talk through questions that Keller’s content creates. How does what he says resonate with what we are facing right now? What hope does he highlight from God’s word? How is Jesus central to the sermon?

Well that’s it. Thank you all for your patience with worship in this format this week. I’m sure some of you may have had different hopes or expectations for today. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I am confident that the Lord will bless us as we as a family work though this worship guide together.

It would be a blessing if you took some time Sunday afternoon to comment on our new #encouragement channel on Slack about what was meaningful for you and/or your family as you worshiped through this guide.

If this week is any indication, I know that I cannot predict now what next week will bring. Maybe we will worship in this same way again, or maybe I’ll get my tech act together and send out some sort of video or maybe it will be something else.

In the meantime, I will pray that this worship guide really helps you meet with our great God in a deep and meaningful way.

I miss you all VERY MUCH!

Grace and peace,