St. Helen’s Daily Lenten Devotional
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20
It is, in traditional understanding, through the waters of Baptism, that we are cleansed from sin, made one with Christ and brought to new birth in the family of the church. This does not suggest that God is not powerfully present to the unbaptized! God is God and the Church is simply one venue where the Holy Spirt moves! And while this verse of scripture can be variously interpreted and applied, many of us when hearing it think firstly of gathering together in worship.
As we follow the ongoing news reports about ‘reopening’ in the midst of Covid, and try to grasp the details of what is allowed and what stays restricted, we continue to meet virtually for the Service of the Word. It’s the safest choice at the moment. In-person gathering may, however, again become an option in the near future. In the meantime, each week we light a designated, tall, white candle on the altar, praying “Although we are not gathered in person today, we light this candle as a symbol of our faith community joined in prayer and purpose, as we persevere in our witness to the presence and power of God in our midst.”
The pandemic has been global. The word itself comes from the Greek “pan-“, “all” + “demos,” “people or population” = “pandemos” = “all the people.” It is significant to remember that, even as we stay in our own little ‘bubbles’, we remain interconnected, both by our membership in the faith community and, in the broadest sense, by our humanity. We already know that, when this disease is ‘under control’, we will all have to focus our attention and energy on nurturing community, including our church family. We will be called upon to offer an environment that furthers healing, growth, confidence and optimism for the future. We will be inspired to encourage, support, and empower one another to new and different ministries and to deeper relationships, with one another and with the Holy One.
During this Lenten season, even as yet in uncertain times, we can as individuals begin to exercise the spiritual muscles that will ensure that we are ready for the task to come. It was Henri Nouwen who wrote, “Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us when we are together that allows us to live in this world without surrendering to the powerful forces constantly seducing us toward despair. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love…”
And these days we are together…apart.