I was online last night with the Church Safety Guys, James McGarvey and Paul Buckner and somewhere in the conversation the Vulcan hand sign for “Live long and prosper” came up and I thought maybe Star Trek had it right in several different things. Let’s look at the handshake. The History Channel says the handshake has been around in some form or fashion for over a thousand years “The handshake has existed in some form or another for thousands of years, but its origins are somewhat murky. One popular theory is that the gesture began as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending their empty right hands, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and bore no ill will toward one another. Some even suggest that the up-and-down motion of the handshake was supposed to dislodge any knives or daggers that might be hidden up a sleeve. Yet another explanation is that the handshake was a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. When they clasped hands, people showed that their word was a sacred bond.”
So maybe the Vulcans had it right. They didn’t do handshakes, they just held their hand up with a big V in the middle of the hand, two fingers together on both sides of the V and gave an encouraging statement “Live long and prosper”. So maybe we should take something from a science fiction show and make it our new way of greeting each other. I like “Live long and prosper” or we could use the way the Episcopal Church does it, “Peace be with you” followed with a return from the person receiving the peace with “And also with you”. I heard Trump the other day say we could use the way the Japanese greet by just nodding their heads toward each other. I am not one for nodding toward each other, of course, I was not a huge fan of handshaking either. So many reasons, like alpha males wanting to show off their strength by squeezing your hand too hard, or the lip wrist handshake. It’s like they are only doing it because of proper protocol but really don’t want to shake your hand; it is just a formality. Then there is the how long do you hold someone’s hand. After a few uncomfortable seconds and I take back my hand from that person's grip, I don’t want to shake their hand ever again. Not to mention how we as police officers don’t like to shake hands because we are too close to that suspicious person. So, from now on, let’s just do away with handshakes and we can take a poll later on what we should do now, Vulcan, nod or “peace be with you”.
Since we are on the subject of Star Trek let me bring up one of my other favorite sayings. Kirk one time when asked about how he handled the Kobayashi Maru test stated, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario”. I don’t either and neither should any Christian. When I was with the police department, I had this attitude there were no no-win scenarios. Call it arrogance, ego or just hard-headedness and at the time I was not a Christ follower. I believed we controlled our own destiny. When I came back to Christ, I understood how wrong that was; God is in control and I fought with myself over my arrogance. Then I realized that with God there are no no-win scenarios. Even in this time of chaos, God is in control and really, He doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios either. If He did, He wouldn’t have given us these powerful scriptures. Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”. So, to me, God is the champion of the no no-win scenarios and we as Christians need to wake up and get a move on finding out what God has planned for us during this pandemic. He has never stated He wanted us to sit on the sideline and just watch the world go by. In John 17:18-19 it is quite clear Christ sends us into the world, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified”. He wants us in the trenches, just not down in the mud, so as Christian let us make sure we are available if He calls us. Find something to do and start practicing that no no-win scenario mindset. I don’t think you understand if Armageddon is tomorrow, We Win. We get to go home to a place a million times better than this place. So, get up and do something. Just remember the recommended social distancing and washing your hands. It doesn’t have to be something out of your house, call or Zoom with your safety teams or members of the church that have been hit the hardest. Be that Light of the Lord.
Okay, one last Star Trek reference. In Star Trek II, Kirk has destroyed Khan and Khan kicks off the Genesis and Spock crawls into the reactor compartment and is bombarded with antimatter radiation, Kirk comes into the engine room and Kirk and Spock have one last conversation.
Spock: “The ship…out of danger?”
Spock: “Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…..”
Kirk: “The needs of the few.”
Spock: “Or the one.”
And Trekkies around the world cried even though I knew there would be another Star Trek and Spock would be back, sorry back to my blog.
For Christians Spock’s logic is flawed. Christians care for all and will do anything for even the one. Christ set the example in Luke 15:3-6 in His parable of the one lost sheep. We will go to great length for that one, the one that God has laid on our hearts, the one that He is constantly whispering to us to look after, the one that for the rest of our lives we will be praying for. We are built of a multiple of ones so we, as the church, must always be looking out for “the one”.
What does this mean? When the President and the Governor came out and asked us not to hold meetings with 100 or more people, they did it not only for the masses but for the one. Our elderly and our friends with pre-existing conditions. Yes, when you add up all of those ones you get the masses, but it starts with one. So, when churches go ahead and have their services who are they doing it for? Sorry, I don’t see it for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. I see it as foolishness and arrogance. Proverbs 3:35 “The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” Yes, we trust God and we know He is in control, but He will never tell you to go out and play in traffic or swim with the alligators at dawn (this is something Florida residents will understand).
So when I read about a pastor in Tampa being arrested for violating social distancing guidelines given to us by the President, Governor of Florida, the CDC and local authorities I have to ask myself his motives. I know that some of you will claim it is our right to assemble; yes it is, but I have a problem when it endangers lives. Isn’t our responsibility as the watchmen/watchwoman on the wall to warn the churches about dangers that can harm those that come to worship? If your church decided to have a Sunday service with these warnings still in place with over 10 people, isn’t that being just a little arrogant and not prudent? Shouldn’t you as the Safety Team Leader be advising your pastoral staff this might not be a great idea? Tell them they may end up reading headlines like this “Special Report: Five days of worship that set a virus time bomb in France”. All because you didn’t heed the warnings of a real, not fake, not made up but a real threat.
On February 18th, 2020 Christian Open Door church had people from France, Germany and Switzerland come to worship at an annual event. Since the event, they have traced over 2,500 coronavirus cases back to this incident. The church claims they didn’t know the seriousness of the virus during this time. One member stated they knew nothing about the virus or the epidemic. A lot of us didn’t understand the magnitude of this disease when it first came out. People who attended the services have been accused of being the cause of spread, members of the congregation have been verbally attacked by strangers for the spreading of the COVID-19. Germany partially closed its borders with France, halting an open border agreement that had been around for 25 years.
So if this church in Tampa is listed as the epicenter in the coming weeks of an outbreak of the coronavirus in the area, do you think God or those that have followed the warnings of doctors and scientists who understand the seriousness of COVID-19 would be happy with this pastor’s decision? I think not. Proverbs 10:23 “A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.” Proverbs 18:2 “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Get my point? We will get through this if we listen to the experts and work together and not against each other.
So, at the beginning of last week, being the optimistic person that I am, I told a friend of mine that by Easter this pandemic would be behind most of us. Those areas not hard hit by the virus would be able to return to a somewhat normal life. I just knew we would be in our churches by Easter. Then over the weekend the President and all his advisers came out and gave us the bad news of maybe not releasing the restrictions until the end of April. I had a moment of anxiety. Mr. President, don’t you know that April the 12th is Easter? The most cherished celebration of any Christian, our Lord and Savor defeating death and giving us everlasting life. What are we going to do? And in that moment, I heard His voice, …“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10. Thinking about it for a moment I felt the peace I was looking for Him and His voice telling me every day is Easter, and when the restrictions are lifted there will be a great celebration at churches around the world.
Brothers and sisters, celebrate. God wants us to celebrate when we defeat this virus. Moses said it best in Exodus 10:9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the LORD.” There will be a festival of our Lord when this is over, the nations will hear our songs and our praise when this has come to past. Until that time, let us join in very small groups, use the technology we have been blessed with for our on-line sermons, our small groups and pray out loud for what we have. We are blessed in this nation and let us remember that God is in control, He loves us dearly and even in the end, there are no no-win scenarios because we all know where we are going, and WE WIN.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.