United Church of God

Letter From Steven Britt - July 10, 2020

Letter From Steven Britt

July 10, 2020

In-Person Service Information for Tomorrow

Richmond, Northern Virginia and Columbia will all have in-person services tomorrow. Full details and guidelines for each were sent out earlier this week, but here is an overview:

Columbia: 10:30 am @ Owen Brown Interfaith Center

Northern Virginia: 1:30 pm @ Hampton Inn-Gainesville

Richmond: 1:00 pm @ Hampton Inn-Richmond/Virginia Center

Anyone with further questions about restrictions or other policies, please refer to the previous emails or contact me directly.

My family and I look forward to joining the brethren in Columbia tomorrow. We will be in Northern Virginia next week (7/18) and then rejoin the Richmond congregation in two weeks (7/25).

New Webcast from Northern Virginia Congregation

When COVID first began, we held a combined webcast with the Philadelphia and Delmarva congregations that I feel served us very well. That webcast will continue to be available at 11:30 am on GoToMeeting for the foreseeable future; however, I am no longer involved in it because we have resumed in-person services in all of the congregations that I pastor.

Starting tomorrow, we will begin webcasting our in-person services from the Northern Virginia congregation each week. The service will begin at 1:30 pm each Sabbath. To access it, go to https://www.ucg.org/congregations/northern-virginia/webcast and enter the password (anyone who needs the password, please contact me directly). At this time, there is no call-in option.

Anyone who would like to continue joining one of the other webcasts instead is welcome to do so, but I will no longer be sending the login information for those each week.

Pure and Undefiled Religion (Part 3)

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27)

Last week, I wrote about the difficult reality faced by widows and orphans and how far more than financial support is implied by this verse - God demands that we show the complete love and care of a family. The Church of God is indeed a spiritual family, and we have a responsibility to care for our own both physically and spiritually!

There are some prerequisites we must establish before we even can begin to "visit orphans and widows in their trouble." Today I want to reflect: how can we put ourselves in a position to fulfill this command?

Not long after I first came into the Church of God, I moved to a new area where I didn't know anyone. At that time, I was shy and uncomfortable with meeting new people. When services were over, I would feel anxious and start looking for the door! I showed up because God commands us to worship together on the Sabbath, but I was falling far short of God's intended purpose for the day.

Thankfully, God was also working in my life and teaching me these very lessons - that we are called into the family of God and must treat one another so. How can we hope to fulfill such a calling - "to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" - if we do not even know one another beyond an acquaintance level? We can't! And so I knew I had to change, and I wanted to. It took time, but God, working through the Spirit, gradually began changing my mindset, attitude and behavior regarding fellowship on the Sabbath each week. He's still not done changing me for the better in that respect.

God commanded us to worship together - to connect, to understand, to uplift and strengthen, and to grow to love each other as family. As Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: if you love one another."

Simply put, we cannot really love people that we do not know - we have to start there and make it our business each week to come to know and love every person in our congregation.

A family communicates their needs to each other and provides for its own with love, and that's what we are commanded to do as a Church. That kind of communication and openness requires the relationship to be in place first, and so we must make building those relationships a high priority! It really takes being in contact more frequently than just once a week for those few precious hours on the Sabbath - we have the means more than any time in history to stay in touch with each other.

As I mentioned last time, the sense of "visit" in this passage is to actively look for what that person may need and how we can help. It implies a sense of ongoing, regular, personal connection while also being ready and willing with support. Only through this type of intimate relationship can we be in a position to fulfill this element of "pure and undefiled religion."

Paul expounds on this same concept powerfully in Galatians 6. In verse 2, he encourages us to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." He continues the thought in verse 10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

The law of God is our source of understanding for what it means to love each other. It not only defines how we must not harm each other by doing wrong, but also requires us to do good for others as we have opportunity. Next week, I'll highlight some of those commandments to that effect straight out of God's Law!

Until then, may God give you peace and renewal on His holy Sabbath day, as we strive more and more to fulfill God's will for His called-out people!