April 13, 2021
Canadian Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church held services this weekend. Normally, this would be an unremarkable fact – but given he was recently been released from jail only to see his church fenced off and shut down by authorities, it’s made this worship service all the more impactful.
Earlier today, GraceLife published their service online, with congregants faces blurred out of the picture.
Pastor Coates greeted those in attendance at the “undisclosed location” by saying, “they can take our facility, but we’ll just find another one.”
A few moments later, two gentlemen (who were only identified in the video as Joe and John) came forward to lead the congregation in song. One of the men began by saying, “Did you ever think you’d be part of the underground church?”
A few songs in there’s a beautiful rendition of “It is Well With My Soul” in which the congregation can be clearly heard singing, despite their profiles being intentionally blurred out so as not to be identified on video.
After singing concluded, Pastor Coates took to the microphone to deliver his sermon. Coates said he had been planning to preach from Psalm 56, but said he’d had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t the right Psalm for the upcoming service. After the church was shut down, he said it was confirmation he needed to change course.
Where did he end up?
“We need a Psalm more appropriate for an occasion like this. We need to hear a ‘Jesus is Lord’ kind of sermon,” he explained. That led Coates to Psalm 2, in which he says “As we read Psalm 2, I want you to consider that what we see taking place in this Psalm though it really describes something yet future to us, is a sense in which this is taking right now at present,” Coates said.
He then went on to read Psalm 2, which says:
Psalm 2:1-12 KJV – “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
He titled the sermon “A Vain Thing” and after explaining the context of Psalm 2, went on to discuss how Psalm 2 paralleled today in various ways. He said, “governments all over the world are counseling together in a unified effort to oppress the people they govern.”
“In that context, those who are faithful, those who follow Christ and confess that Jesus is Lord are going to be the ones they have to silence and get out of the way because everyone else is going to fall in line.”
“It’s going to be the Lord’s people who stand and herald him as king and call governments to submit to him as king and to govern in accord with the very Word that will judge them on judgement day. Even as we think about our own government, we have called them to their duty. Unmistakably, we have directed them to their duty. They know they are going to be judged in accord with the Word of God, that the Word of God is going to be the standard with which they are assessed and evaluated and they still continue to persevere in their obstinacy. This is defiance.”