Where are we now?
It’s a question I have asked often when out in the hills. Walking for a period of time through mist with limited information from the landscape leads inevitably to that question “where are we now”? Having decided on the current location the next question is where next – continue with the original plan made during the bright sunlight of the previous day or adapt to the change in conditions and enjoy the ongoing journey safely. Does that sound familiar as we enter this unknown territory of emerging from “lockdown”?
It is easy to long for how things were, when we could gather together in church, hug, shake hands, sing, break bread, but we cannot remain looking back. Remember those words to the people gathered at the ascension of Jesus, “two men in white robes stood beside them and said, ‘…why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus will come…’” A time will come when the mist clears, a time will come when we gather again, but we don’t know when and so we must move forward in a different way.
The psalmist who wrote psalms 42 and 43, knew only too well the longing to gather in a familiar way to worship God, “these things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God”. There is much we can long for and forget to look ahead.
Julia on Sunday asked us to think about what we had learnt in lockdown, not simply what new skills or languages we had studied, but what we had learnt about ourselves and our relationship with God. The Psalmist also challenges himself to consider why he is feeling so dejected and longing for what has been. He repeats a refrain in these psalms in which he challenges himself and asks that question and also finds an answer: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”
As we confront an uncertain future in many ways, God has a path set out for us. One of the skills of navigating in mist is to take bearings over short distances only, but rejoice in that. Six months ago, meeting for a coffee was nothing special, now it is precious and treasured. Meeting in the garden will soon be extended to meeting within the house and that will be very special indeed. Can we take the opportunity we have been given and build on it. Rather than focusing on when we might be able to gather in church again, can we think about how we can “be church” in our homes? As we begin to meet, could we pray together, it doesn’t have to be scary or complex, or give that somewhat embarrassed, uncomfortable feeling! Perhaps just sharing a blessing as part of a greeting, committing any shared worries to God, sharing words of praise for the beauty of a garden, promising to say compline later that evening individually but together. Whenever we pray there will be someone, somewhere also praying and we join with them and the whole company of heaven. In the near future we will be able to meet another household and eat together. What about giving thanks at the start of a meal and breaking bread, remembering it was in just such an action that those travellers on the road to Emmaus met Jesus. Perhaps we can learn to “be church” in a new way, not dependent upon a building, but dependent on being a community of believers. Let’s really take to heart and put into practice those words of St Paul to the Colossians church, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.