A little over two months ago I led the first of these Facebook Live worship services. In my sermon that day, I said I didn’t believe that God was testing us; but that the church would be scrutinized.
I still believe that. How are we reacting to these unprecedented circumstances? How do we continue to be the church? We gather for prayer; we gather on line to sing and to pray and to reflect. It is certainly not the same as being together in person. I know that. But it is what we can do; and what we must do.
The most important calling as the body of Christ is to live out God’s love for creation. Not just as individuals but as a community of faith. The most basic example of how we can do that is to continue to follow the advice of health experts and do what we can to prevent the continued spread of a deadly virus. That does not mean we cease to be a church. It means we use different ways of living out our call to share the Good news of Christ.
In today’s reading Jesus offers a prayer for his followers. For his current followers and also those who will come after them. That they will know God; that we will know God on a much deeper level.
This is a prayer about relationship; about interconnections. Jesus speaks of how he and God; or as he refers to God in this passage, the Father. He uses intimate familial language to evoke that connection. But it is a sense of connection; of deep relationship. And he wishes the same for creation. For those who follow him and those who will come to him later.
Not just that they have that relationship with him and God. But also with one another. That they will be one. It is a call for love.
We can often look at this passage and see it as a call for one Church. For the unification of all the various denominations. It can be seen as a call for that form of unity; in fact this prayer of Jesus was used as a rallying call during the work to form the United Church of Canada.
I can’t see it in that way now. The differences between the multitudes of Christian expressions that exist are too deep and too wide. There are differences in theology and structure that I can’t see being bridged anytime soon. And that is okay. We can still be unified and maintain our differences. At least I hope so. Unity and uniformity are not the same thing. In fact we can and should disagree over many points that I won’t mention today.
But we cannot forget that God calls us to love. Love our neighbours and our friends and love our enemies.
We are called to remember how deeply we are interconnected. What affects one of us; affects all of us.
I have made this point many times in the past and it bears repeating. We are connected through Christ. Christ prays for us. Christ expresses his desire for our relationship; with him and with one another to be as deep and as meaningful as his is with God the creator.
This crisis that we are living through right now brings with it great temptations. We can be tempted to self pity or to wallow in our despair. We can be tempted to worry only about our own health and our own needs and to ignore the calls to take various basic precautions. Remember; when we wear a mask in public it is not for our own protection but to help protect others from infection.
We can be tempted to decide some lives are perhaps expendable; although we don’t want to decide whose life exactly we are talking about.
We are faced with many temptations. But we are also called. Called to reflect on what truly matters to us. We are called to take a hard look at this world and our society and ask; what and who we want to be as a community going forward. A veil on a great many injustices is being drawn back. We can see who is truly vulnerable in times of crisis. We are being forced to ask questions about how we fund and equip our homes for the aged. We are being forced to ask what a real living wage is and if those in jobs we deem essential should maybe be paid accordingly.
We may not be able to gather in person to pray and to sing. It may actually be some time before we are offered that privilege. But that doesn’t mean we stop being the church. We are called to be the church. To live with respect in creation. We are called to love one another and to reflect Christ’s love for all the world in our words and in our actions. May we continue to be a community of faith by living out this call to be one in the love we live out for the entire world.
Permission to podcast /stream the music in this service obtained from CCL I
streaming license number 20369698, Size A.