Let us also think of creative ways by which we can influence one another to find inspired expression in doing things that benefit others. Good actions give voice and volume to the love of God. In the light of our free access to the Father, let us extend that embrace to one another. Our gatherings are no longer a repetition of tradition but an essential fellowship where we remind one another of our true identity. Let us do so with greater urgency now the day has dawned in our understanding.Hebr 10:24-25 MIR
These verses are a challenge in these times when read from any traditional translation, especially the part on “not forsaking the assemblies”.
I had a look on the Greek, and I was astonished to see the word used for assembly here. It is episunagoge.
We know the second part of the word well: it is today’s word for synagogue, which actually does mean assembly or place of assembly by extension.
But why did the writer then not use this word? Did he want to distinguish our assemblies from Jewish meetings? I don’t think so.
Epi is a reinforcing prefix. The best translation I found in this case: more, which leads to the translation for the whole word as more than just meeting.
This fits perfectly with the Mirror translation I used above: Our gatherings are no longer a repetition of tradition but an essential fellowship.
This puts a whole other meaning on the verse. Suddenly it is not about not coming together each Sunday morning and once during the week plus prayer meetings, practices and more.
It is not a weapon any longer to pressure people into church attendance, nor a tool to motivate them because you are convinced it is best for them.
It is an admonishment to all of us, that we do not just meet to sit in rows facing the leader, singing songs and listen to a sermon.
The verses not only call us to do what we know to do: sing psalms, prophecy, pray for each other, usher, preach, sometimes even teach, and encourage each other, drink coffee together, brake bread, and have the occasional meal, hug each other and strangers that found the way into one of our meetings, and have plenty of smalltalk.
It encourages us to be creative, to leave known paths, break norms, to find inspired expressions of God’s love.
For centuries, our gatherings have been repetitions of tradition. We heard the ever same messages. We sang modern variations of the same old songs. We thought that we encouraged one another when there was the odd prophecy, promising the same things we have been promised for years.
And I do not say this from a place of frustration or hurt.I say this with a bleeding heart and desire for the church to become what she is called to be. So if I might come over as harsh or even hard, forgive me. This is passion and compassion speaking.
It is time to break out of tradition. It is time to embrace the truth of the gospel that we are to receive and reflect the eternal giver.
How can we reflect the most creative being there ever was and ever will be, that created no flower like the other, and when he spoke the word tree, thousands of kinds of trees sprang forth into existence, by doing the same old same old over and over again?
One of the signs that we are stuck in the old ways is our interpretation of this verse. We only interpret it on the moral level, at best as an admonition, at worst as a threat. Do not forsake the assembling together.
But this time we are in–for readers in the future: I write this in the early stages of the CoViD-19 lockdown–has us re-evaluate what it means to “extend that embrace to one another”.
This speaks of the embrace of God’s love and our free access to him. It does not speak of physical touch.
We can come together in other ways than physically gathering in one space. It can be online or in our dreams, and I am sure God has some more ideas. I am looking forward to experience some of those.
It’s not about the gathering part anyway. That is necessary in one or the other form to do what the verse really tells us: let your coming together not just be superficial and therefore superfluous. Let it be creative, surprising, full of love, and full of new ideas.
Since we are bound back from exercising our traditional ways at the moment, this is a great and wonderful time to be creative.
It is also a marvelous opportunity to dive deeper into the word that is called Christ and the relationship with him.
It is a great time to let go of old believes or at least put them on the line to be re-examined. Let them go, and then pray and search. If they do not come back to you, they probably were never yours.
How much more fun and exciting will it be when we come together and everybody is overflowing with new treasures about God, mixed in with some old but renewed ones.
“You cannot guess what I saw in the word yesterday!” is such an exciting start of a dialogue, as opposed to reinforcing what we all have known for ages again, and we all just nod in silence, because there is nothing to add. We know. The most that can happen is that some go home in guilt and shame because they know, but they do not do.
Please, never use these verses again to encourage, admonish, or pressure somebody into attending your gatherings.
Take them as an encouragement and a reminder to create ever new innovative and inspired expressions of God’s love in our gatherings, be they physical, digital, or in the spirit.
I am looking forward to the new expression of church that will flow out of this time. The worst would be to just go back to what we had. It had its time, and God gave mercy. It’s time to awake and grow.