In the 1993 romantic comedy “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray plays a self-absorbed TV weatherman named Phil. Assigned to cover the annual rite of spring in Punxsutawney, Phil is horrified to realize that he has become stuck in a time warp. Reliving an annoying day over and over again, each morning of his nightmare starts with Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” blaring from the nightstand clock radio. Displaying frantic frustration after several days, Phil slammed the clock radio to the floor hoping to crush it and escape to real time. To his great horror, the monotonous tune continued to play from the shattered radio on the floor, dooming Phil to Punxsutawney Purgatory.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the disease that some have called “the long goodbye.” Alzheimer’s is a disease that takes it’s toll not only on the those afflicted but also on all of those who love them. In its early stages, family and friends begin to notice someone they care about repeating themselves. Over time, short-term memory disappears. Before long, Alzheimer’s sufferers begin to recognize that something is wrong, terribly wrong. But there is no way out. There is no cure for this devastating disease. There is no escape, no rest.
With friends and family wrestling with Alzheimer’s, I have thought about this over the last couple of weeks. I’ve come to realize that most of humanity suffers from something similar Alzheimer’s. We are creatures of habit. Without even recognizing it, many of us fall into repetitive patterns and practices in our own personal lives. What may have started out so innocently, becomes an entrapment. Most of the time we don’t even realize how ensnared we have become. Others do.
For believers in Jesus, God has provided a number of escape mechanisms from the repetitive cycles of Satan’s sin snare. Mankind was been created for relationship. A relationship with the potential for radical transformation is only found in the God of the universe. In this, the Church Age, at the moment of one’s belief in Messiah Jesus, God seals our relationship in Him with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Incredible! By simply believing, those who are trapped, isolated, and alone are invited to take a seat at the council table of the Triune God.
But who has stood in the council of the Lord, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? – Jeremiah 23:18
But there is more. Much more. The second most important relationships for believers are found in the greater family God has provided to all who believe. They are found in the Body of Messiah, the Church. Through our new relationship with God, we are introduced to others who were once ensnared as we were. We discover that through them God has open arms ready to encircle and comfort us. Of course, for us to be able to experience this, we must participate in the fellowship He has provided.
In the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law, God commanded the Jews to rest on the seventh day. No work was to be done. Released from the daily grind of repetitive labor, the Chosen People were provided a day for reflection and regeneration. It was God’s desire that in every Jewish home fathers and mothers have the time to lead their entire family in experiencing God’s greatness and goodness. He knew that as human beings we have the tendency to get caught up in fruitless flurries of activity. His answer to this proclivity was the Sabbath rest. There are many lessons to be learned from the Shabbat.
With Yeshua’s ascension to heaven, observance of the Mosaic Law came to an end. However, our need for relationship with others did not. For that reason, God commands all believers to assemble together regularly. It is a sad fact that many followers of Messiah Jesus have opted out of involvement in a local assembly. Rationalizations abound. Part of the reason for this is that believers select a church like they select a restaurant. They act like consumers as opposed to contributors. But, there is no way to get around our Lord’s command. According to Hebrews 10:23–25, the regular assembly of believers accomplishes many things. Without the assembly of local believers, those who are isolated and alone live lives of quiet desperation. Furthermore, as believers we need others outside of our own families with the freedom to speak into our lives.
Someday soon, Yeshua will descend from heaven to gather those who love Him to Himself. The dead in Him will rise first, followed by those still alive (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Notice the admonition at the end of this passage to comfort one another. Being together with others is one of the ways God breaks through the destructive cycles of sin all of us experience.
I can’t wait for that certain reunion with the Lord. But, there is a place where we can get a taste of that now. So this week, when the alarm clock goes off telling you to drag you bones out of bed and go to Church, just look at it a smile. It is there that you and those of your faith community will hear Him say once again, “I Got You…”