The Grapevine



June 28, 2020

Aloha Church Family and Friends,


     When in March of this year the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a health emergency, we hunkered down and started taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Wearing masks, keeping social distancing, avoiding public gatherings- all of it became part of our everyday routine. Even though our churches never actually closed down, we ventured into virtual space and suspended in-person worship services and programs. And now, as we are reopening restaurants, shopping malls and churches, yet the virus danger is still tangible and present, there is a valid question looming on the horizon. What is the purpose of churches physically gathering together again? Why not continue watching our online services and religious TV programs indefinitely from the convenience and comfort of our living rooms and kitchen tables and totally avoid human contact. Why not read and study the Bible on-line and move altogether from the physical confines of our pews, walls and altars and into the new brave, and relatively safe, virtual world? It sounds like a strange idea, yet the fundamental question still remains: why do we actually go to a physical church, as opposed to just watching religious events from a safe distance?

     Let’s first agree that church is not limited to a particular building and online or TV religious programs are a great tool when we can’t worship together due to personal health reasons. Some people have a weakened immune system, underlying health problems or other perfectly legitimate reasons that make human contact in public places unsafe. God wants us to be responsible stewards of our health and express goodwill to other people by helping them stay safe as well. For the people in those and other high-risk categories, and for those who don’t feel safe, or are sick, abstaining from public worship is indeed the right choice and a wise decision!  Your safety and wellbeing are of utmost importance. But we also have to agree that for the rest of us, danger, uncertainty and fear are all a permanent part of human existence. Life never stops, we can’t escape reality, shelter in our homes or remain insulated forever. While a “virtual” church experience serves a great yet temporary purpose, a church that gathers together physically and in-person, is much closer to what God intended His Church to be.  Christian church by design is much more than a group of passive spiritual consumers spread around on-line. We read in 1 Corinthians 12 the words of apostle Paul, describing the church as a body of believers united in Christ and ministering together with their unique gifts and talents. Simply put, church is not a spectator no-contact sport, it requires actual physical fellowship and a real community to fulfill its God-given purpose. First, it is our worship together as a group of believers that makes our souls come alive; God’s power of the Holy Spirit is released and applied to our lives and Jesus himself is present and in our midst when we worship and praise God together.  We all desire and need spiritual intimacy and closeness of being connected as human beings. Worshiping alone or online may be convenient, yet it is during our corporate worship when we are in the company of other Jesus’ followers that we are truly positioned to receive the maximum spiritual impact that God wants to help us experience to the fullest.

     When we make time in our busy schedules and commit to worship God together, even though there are a thousand other things we could be doing instead, we offer a powerful witness and demonstrate to our friends, families and the whole world that our system of values and priorities is based on God and reflects the Truth of God’s power and presence in our lives. It is a statement that God is in the very center of who we are; we choose to live according to the unchangeable spiritual principles established by our Creator, we are blessed beyond measure by our relationship with God and each other. Our community of faith is important to us and we really would love to share the joy of our faith with others in hope that they too can experience the life-changing power of God in their lives. Something else happens when we are together: our faith grows and expands in practical ways. Our faith matures and becomes “seasoned” when we bear each other’s burdens, learn to deal kindly with inevitable tensions that occasionally arise when imperfect yet redeemed by God people gather together and things get messy. When we are together, we offer encouragement to each other, share our joys and sorrows, tap into our creative energies and commit to stay together both through our ups and downs.

     Our purpose as a church is not limited to minister to each other, but most importantly, to step out, become so energized and empowered by God’s Spirit present in our midst that we hear God’s calling to serve and go into the world to minister in word and deed to those who yet don’t know God and the power of His Risen Son Jesus Christ. God has placed within each one of us many unique gifts, talents and abilities with the purpose of our using them in Christian service so that we may become a blessing to others. When we use our talents and get involved in our churches’ ministries, we follow the example of Jesus Christ and have an amazing opportunity to make an eternal difference in other people’s lives.

     Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”.  My friends, during these challenging for everyone times, I sincerely thank you for your faithfulness and your support with your time and finances. Keeping you and your loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. May God bless us all!

Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church