I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:3-6 (NRSV)
It is surreal for us on church staff, as it is for you in your digital “pews” (read sofa and La-Z-Boy), to think about ourselves as “church” at the moment. This disembodied life is obviously the necessary step in such an unusual time in our world community. And your staff is fully endorsing the safety measures … sequestering ourselves in our homes and away from our church building … and striving to build a digital community of sorts, piece by piece … or I guess it is byte by byte. We will continue to follow executive orders from the White House … our governor’s directives, and any local official guidance interpreted by our township’s local officials. Lutherans have always believed that God works through wise elected leaders, who bear a secular authority, along with, (in a different way obviously), church leaders and congregants through whom God also speaks and acts with spiritual authority. We are in this together as religious and secular leaders in a broken world. (Remember our Law and Gospel conversations in the past).
But just as I start feeling a little overwhelmed, I call an older member to see how she is managing the isolation, and instead, she wants to tell me about four other people she called who are alone and why she is worried about them. Just when I feel some frustration with my growing to-do-list that never seems to shrink, I hear someone tell me that they got a beautiful card from another church member, that just made their day and helped them feel more connected. Or just as I am ready to whine again about digital church and my aversion to seeing myself in any kinds of pictures of videos, I see an email from someone who could not be more grateful for our Sunday streaming worship service, and how it links them to our community of faith for this moment in time. And I realize that God’s Spirit at work among us is actively restoring my limping spirit. Isn’t that always the way God is at work among us?
So … I invite you in your prayer time these coming days … and you should have PLENTY of time, right?! (well, unless you’re a parent with kids home from school – you get a pass. 😊) … yes, I invite you to remember that a little bit of physical distance can never break the bonds of a community fueled by the Holy Spirit. Think about St. Paul who wrote the words with which this devotion opened. He was more often than not separated from the communities of faith to whom he ministered. His time away from them dwarfed his time with them, due to long periods of travel, periods of sickness, and times of imprisonment. But his love for and the bound-spirit of community that existed between him and his flock, let no time nor distance diminish their love for each other. I will try to model Paul’s spirit this week … and I invite you to try the same. It is a tried and true way to experience God’s Spirit at work among us.