I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
– John 17:20-23, The Message
What a “wild” season of life this has been! We are living through a pandemic that has killed thousands, infected millions, caused economic hardship, disruption, and disorienting for many of us.
In many ways, it’s shown how deep the divide is in our world on so many levels, and it’s also shown that innumerable ways of how important our shared humanity is, and that we can work together for the common good. And, I’m seeing the church, and especially our church, become even more unified.
So, as I am writing this, we are in the midst of Ohio’s “stay at home” and “social distancing” restrictions that will give us an opportunity to “suppress the curve” of this pandemic. We do not know how long this will last: a few more weeks, months, or the rest of the year in some way. I do hope that all of you reading this are safe and well. And, if you are not, I pray that you find solace in knowing that we, as a church, are with you and that God is with you.
This has also been a time of adjustment to new ways of being, not only in a (Lord willing) temporary way, but also in new ways of finding growth and faith in the midst of a season of lament.
I found these passages on prayer because I believe this, as in every season, is a season of prayer. Prayer is not something that we do just when we think about it. Our entire lives are prayers. We are constantly praying whether we realize it or now. Life is prayer. A communication between all peoples and the divine flow that is God moving in, through, and all around us. In that flow, we find Jesus. It may lead to deeper places in our lives and in the lives of others that we may not want to go. Jesus is in the depth and shadows of our lives, as well as in the joy and dancing of our lives. As Paul says in Colossians, “Christ is all, and in all”.
Friends, so many in our church and neighborhood have been in this season as best as they can be. We have been finding appropriate ways to connect with one another through chats across residential lots (several feet apart), walks (again, several feet apart and wearing masks often), helping hand out food in the community (again, with every precautionary guideline), online through Zoom and FaceBook Live, YouTube, phone calls, and in other ways. And, through it all, prayers deep inside, most of which we cannot even give words to.
It has reinforced to me that we do not just have a “virtual” church, but an authentic church, and that our desires or prayers to be all that God intends for us to be are being made real in many ways, even during this time.
It’s interesting to also hear how many folks have had vivid dreams, could this also be a form of prayer, of something deeper wanting to come out, spring forth?
I recently read this and it holds so much wisdom:
[St. Francis’] life indicates to us that if we persevere in prayer we will find God in the center of our lives and the bitter will become sweet [as when Francis kissed the leper]; however, if we stay on the plain of mediocrity then the bitter may remain bitter. To trust in the power of God’s grace through darkness, isolation, bitterness, and rejection is to be on the way to becoming prayer because it is the way to freedom in God. For prayer, that deep relationship of God breathing in us, requires change and conversion. And where there is change, there is the letting go of the old and the giving birth to the new. To pray is to be open to the new, to the future in God. The way to life passes through change and ultimately the change from death to life. Prayer is the way to life because in prayer we are invited to change and to grow in love.
– Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio (From Father Richard Rohr’s daily devotions)
Friends, may it be so, may this be a season of mutual conversion, of mutual growth, for all of us. May we let go of what we need to let go of, to let it die in order for new life to be birthed, resurrected. This is the Easter story that we just remembered, let’s continue to live it together!