April 23, 2020 | 2:00 pm

Words of Hope from Elder David Smith:

“1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.” Psalm 42:1-4 (NIV)

As I write this, it is Easter Sunday afternoon. I am reflecting on Hope’s beautiful worship services that were shared on the internet during this unprecedented Holy Week. The videos of the church worshipping in joy in previous Easters made me smile but at the same time made my heart ache. The words written in Psalm 42 came flooding into my mind. I don’t think I ever really felt verse 4 before today. It occurred to me that believers in the West may now have a little (just a little) appreciation for what our brothers and sisters under persecution feel, why they take real risks and endure great hardships to worship together.

As I reflected, as God often does, He led me to a recent online essay written by John Stonestreet of Breakpoint. I’d like to share a few of his words. “This pain we feel should also encourage us, however. Our thankfulness for these very good things such as “online services,” home worship, and listening to sermons on podcasts should contain more than a hint of disappointment. They simply are not adequate replacements for what the life of the church should be, not to mention there simply are no substitutes for the sacraments of baptism and communion.” “In fact, if we’re not feeling a serious loss right now, we should be worried. If remote services on a laptop feel normal, then church has become nothing more than a spectator activity, and we have become, well, spectators to worship rather than worshipers.”

“This is the difference between doing church” and being the Church. While we are unable to meet for worship, the hunger for something more is a sign of spiritual life. We should encourage that hunger, and certainly look forward to coming together, again.” “To do so, especially in the midst of the current threats of death and disease, is to ultimately be a sign to the world of that day when Christ will fully bridge all distance between Himself and His Bride, when He heals all sickness, finally restores all things, and makes His dwelling with His people.”

Psalm 42 closes with these words, ‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ Psalm 42: 11 (NIV) Let us be the sign Mr. Stonestreet speaks of, to show our communities how Jesus’ followers are trusting Him, and while we wait, we are serving Him. We will yet praise Him together, our Savior and our God.