Sunday, May 17, 2020

What can and can't be counted on

Daily Devotion - May 17

I will send a brief message each day (except Mondays)
while we are pausing gathering in person.
- Kara

Oh my goodness gracious, technology was on full display today!  Zoom was having global outages, and we held worship with no chat feature, some didn't have video, some didn't have audio, and on and on.  I almost laughed in the middle of our scripture reading about Saul's encounter with Christ, when I read the line, "The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one." (Acts 9:7).
Thank you to all who joined us for worship and stuck in there together.

I felt waves of gratitude in the midst of all that, because here's what this is all doing to us - over and over again: it is taking away the things we rely on to feel secure.  Ten weeks in, we have just been feeling like technology can be counted on, this things we set up to uphold us while the regular things we have to uphold us aren't available.  But now one of those things wavered and showed signs of weakness, unreliability, failure. We scramble to find footing, to grab hold of things that make us feel safe, in control, steady. And everything keeps shifting and moving. Our only security is God.  The only thing that can be counted on is the presence and grace of God. We have no control - (or very little, for very limited times).  Mostly, it's an illusion, a story we tell ourselves.

The reality is, God has got us.
 From before the beginning of time past the end of time, this story is God's story, and we are held in God's love and grace.  A reminder from the early days of this pandemic, "There is grace for what is actually happening, never for what might happen." Today I felt the grace for what is actually happening.
Take away our regular worship space and time? We are still church!
Take away our ability to gather in person? We are still church!
Take away our singing together? We are still church! 
Take away some of our voice? We are still church!
Take away some of our ability to see each other?  We are still church!
Take away the words to the songs, and the milestones and the hand-raising - we are still church!
God is with us no matter what. We are church no matter what.
Because Church is who we are.

You are church - you are the Body of Christ in the world, for the world, bearers of hope, watchers for redemption, carriers of love and truth-tellers of loss and pain, those who share life together and know that when we are with and for each other, Jesus is right here.
That can't be taken away.  We are Church - not by what we do or how we do it, but because God has made us that.

Last week in Adult Confirmation we read: "In a real way, the only thing that distinguishes church and world is that the church knows something about the world that it doesn't usually know about itself: that it is greatly loved."
And,  "God wants to strip away the falseness and suspicion and pretense and hypocrisy of human beings in their relating to one another, and have them encounter one another as they really are--as creatures of God who share the same problems and possibilities.  What we call "church" is nothing more nor less than a small beginning in the direction of becoming real."  (Douglas John Hall, Why Christian?)

So our falseness and pretense keeps getting stripped away.
Our security and our stories keep crumbling.
Thanks be to God.  
We know the world is loved!
We are being made real!
Go and be that this week, Church.

Perhaps tonight before bed, whatever time that is in each of our homes, we and so join our souls with each other and the people of the whole earth:

Maybe for our prayer tonight, we could say or sing the song we're using each week of this Easter season.

Steadfast – Sandra McCracken
I will build my house whether storm or drought
on the rock that does not move
I will set my hope in your love, O Lord
and your faithfulness will prove
         You are Steadfast, steadfast

By the word you spoke all the starry host
are called out by name each night
In your watchful care, I will rest secure
as you lead us with your light
         You are steadfast, steadfast
         You are steadfast, steadfast

I will not trust in the strength of kings
on your promise I will stand
I will shout for joy, I will raise my voice
Hallelujah to the Lamb
         You are steadfast, steadfast
         You are steadfast, steadfast

In the moment of emptiness all was fulfilled
in the hour of darkness your light was revealed
In the presence of death your life was affirmed
in the absence of holiness You are still God

Watch/listen here.

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