So here we are in week four-thousand-seven-hundred-and-twenty-three of the Corona virus blues – or did we just start all this yesterday? And if it wasn’t enough to try to live in near surgical cleanliness all the time to avoid a disease that could pass us by or could kill us and those we love or give any of us strange physical and psychological disabilities for months or the rest of our lives, we are also dealing with issues of racial inequality, political upheaval, economic depression and psychological isolation. It is a bit much these days.
So how is your faith helping you through? Where is God for you these days? How are you living out your baptismal vows while keeping social distance? (Your vows are in the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 301-302.)
Fasting on worship in our church buildings, we have been reminded of the theological and biblical truth that the Church is the people who make up the Body of Christ and not a building we attend on Sunday mornings for an hour, nor an institution. Fasting on Eucharist, we have discovered the sacred nature of our own dining tables again.
We are more aware than ever that the people and prayers we have together are very meaningful for us, and we miss the “old” way of gathering deep in our hearts. Hopefully, we are also finding new ways to stay connected with people and also to be deeply connected with God. Our online worship has become a rich source of connection and prayer for me. It took a while, to be honest. At first, I was pushing through all the zoom meetings and preaching to a computer screen because I had to. But I have found you all through these tools and discovered God doesn’t much depend on us being in the same room. I have also found God has a way of connecting us in the divine love in ways that are beyond my understanding – and definitely beyond my control.
Our ministry and worship are not only continuing, we are finding new ways of being faithful in our flexibility and in our deep rootedness in a God who is so much bigger than all those things that we are dealing with these days. I have never known so many challenges in my 30 years of ordained ministry. But I am constantly surprised and blessed with things in these days even as I also grieve what we are missing and have lost. The truth is, were we able to simply turn the clock back and return to the way things were, I would miss much of what I have learned and the ways the church has grown in these days. And, of course, we will not go back to where we were. Instead, God has called us into a whole new future that we are still only beginning to comprehend.
Perhaps you recall that when John the Baptist was in prison he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was really the Messiah. After all, things were difficult. Surely the real Messiah was going to make it all easy and clear and strong and good. Jesus tells them: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” Basically, Jesus is saying: “Sure, it’s not happening the way you expected or even wanted, but God is bringing good things; look!” (See Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22.)
We can sit and wait for things to get “better.” We can even imagine that things will go back to the way they used to be. Or we can follow Jesus and do worship and walk in the ways of charity in these days and these times as they are given to us. What I am seeing again and again is that God is doing amazing things in us and through us at Kingston and in our larger church in these days. We may not be doing things the way we always used to, or the ways we always expected we would, but God is bringing the Kingdom still and blessing us with ministry to be disciples of the living God.
The Very Rev. Gary Barker