Lock-down day one.
I wonder if we are all pressed with the question of our relevance. When there are troubles, I am sure we all at some level want to be part of the solution. We want to do something constructive to save the day. And here we sit at home. Most of us, while the few – and our prayers are with them, but we can’t even shake their hands and say thanks. Can’t treat them to a beer after work. Can’t have them over for a braai (shis’nyama) on Sunday afternoon, can’t call them up for prayer at the front of the church on Sunday morning. We feel left out. Excluded. And yet at this point that is the sacrifice that we must make. A withdrawal from our normal for the sake of the world. Today we commit to life unusual. Today we commit to forgoing our activity, for the sake of others. It’s called a living sacrifice. It’s a normal Lent activity, and God calls us to it.
But it doesn’t feel normal.
The disciples must have been feeling good about journeying with Jesus and seeing Him gain popularity and the growth in understanding that He was the Messiah. He had even started acting more like the Messiah as He healed and challenged the Jewish authorities and questioned them as to who they thought He was. (Luke 9:19)
It must have been a shock to hear Him speak of being handed over to the authority of this world. (Luke 9:22) It must have been a shock when He spoke of dying instead of being crowned with glory.
A bit like now. Just when the church should be feeding the hungry, healing the sick, burying the dead, baptizing new members, we are in the hands of a Secular government, taking orders from them. And they are doing a really good job, by the way. Our leaders have shown a maturity above their party politic antics which have dominated our conversation around the leadership of this country. But this situation has highlighted many, many, social ills in our country. A situation like this has the ability to show up all one’s flaws. Our own leadership crisis in the church has been highlighted too, sadly, we see that we have been left wanting.
We are reminded of something that only we can do. And that is truly, intercede for our nation. I’m talking about more than forwarding positive thoughts, I’m talking about more than social media posts of pictures and encouraging words. I mean heart felt, heart driven authentic prayer – in your upper room where nobody is pressing like or share and no tally of how many views is seen.
Never before has social media been so useful to the church. But Social media is the platform it is not the prayer. We need to ensure that we are authentic in prayer. That we a sincere in prayer. That we are holy in prayer.
Prayer, real authentic prayer is what is going to hold us together connecting us to God and to each other. Our understanding of and use of prayer has to grow out of this situation. Our Corporate prayer is a matter of praying the same thing, as opposed to being in the same building when someone prays. Our Corporate prayer is being unified in purpose. And our Morning and Evening prayers aim to unify us. By the way you don’t have to log into the online prayers, although you are very welcome – but if you can’t then at 8am and at 4pm get out your prayer book and your bible and read the daily readings and pray the APB prayers. (If you don’t have a Prayer book – just do the readings).
If you have access, go onto the website and get the 24/7 prayer guides to help you.
The most important things to do to help you to truly live this experience is to understand that God is in this. God works all things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28). We must use this time wisely to reorder our lives. As a civilization we cannot just be waiting this out to carry on as we did before. The Church has the most important role to play in listening to God in this time and reordering our lives. Or lives must center around prayer – and we need to learn what that means.
Our lives must center around the daily readings and listening to God through them.
I think of St Paul, writing to the Churches from His gaol cell. I think of St John writing to the churches from Patmos. I think of Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos and Habakkuk, all speaking to God’s people out of their challenging circumstances. You too are a Jeremiah. Your life is a living letter, your actions in your own home are “God’s way of living in the world” (To use Thomas Keating’s phrase). We are in Christ, living out God’s love in the world.
I remind you again that many people throughout the ages have chosen “self-Isolation” as the best way to serve God. Choose to serve God today by dedicating yourselves to this one thing.
Acknowledging that you are in Christ and He is in you and that your life, especially today, is being used by God to reorder, to refurbish the world. In God’s plan -whatever you are doing today, whatever today holds in-store for you – God wants to use it to show His mercy, His love, His presence and His grace.
Pray for those who are going out to deliver essential services today. Pray for those who are serving God from home today. Pray for those who are alone today, those who are afraid. Love God’s people and pray for them. God’s love drives out fear (1 John 4: 18).
Don’t focus on what you are secluded from – focus on what you are secluded for.
Choose faith not fear.
Be assured of my prayers for you.