For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 30: 15
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11: 28 - 30
Several months ago, early in the days of the pandemic I came to church one Sunday morning and I was preparing for Sunday Morning Service. I stood right about where I am now and looked out into the sanctuary. I think it might have been a Morning Prayer service. Jim and Paul were here and they were also busy about their preparations for worship.
We were all very new to this experience of streaming our service and I believe each of us was feeling our own level anxiety about what was happening and what we were doing. It wasn't happening the way that we wanted it to. We were dealing with our inexperience and the inadequate equipment we had at the time. Poor sound quality, not a lot of wifi bandwidth and not a lot of knowledge of how to do this.
I have to admit that I was particularly anxious about my own Sermon preparation and presentation. I had questions about my vocal quality and my accent being hindrances to people really being able to understand. When Paul had raised the question of us broadcasting our services at a vestry meeting early in his term on vestry I had tried to defer that decision.
As I look back now I have to admit that I think God really does have a somewhat warped sense of humor. For all the reasons I stated above I had pushed back against the idea. We talked about it in general terms, maybe, possibly, sometime in the future we might.
Then the pandemic hit and we found ourselves scrambling around trying to work it out on the fly. There was this little voice in the back of my head going: "well if you had listened to the Holy Spirit speaking to you through Paul you wouldn't be in this situation."
I took a deep breath and tried to bring some level of calmness to what I was doing and what I was thinking. I guess I must have thrown up a prayer and asked the Lord to help please, get through this service this morning without stumbling too much. That my dyslexia and my anxiety would hold enough so that I could the words on the page, particularly during my sermon.
As I stood there I remembered one of the Brothers of SSJE sermons. They were doing a series I think on the desert fathers. I stopped and thought about what it must have been like for those men?
The world they were living in was in chaos, the church was under attack, many people were suffering for their faith. I thought about the response of the desert fathers. The deep indwelling faith that they had. The majestic words and thoughts that they produced.
Suddenly I found myself considering their response. I found myself asking the question what did they do? They took themselves out into the desert. They lived in caves and small huts, isolated from the rest of the world and then. They prayed. They went through the liturgy that they developed, they went about the routine of their lives and they committed what they were doing to the Lord.
As I /we look back now we can see that the life of isolation and dedication in many ways saved the church at that time.
I suddenly had this urge that this may well be my "monastic" moment. It really didn't matter how professional what we were doing was. It didn't matter how many people were watching or engaged with us through the medium of live-stream. It was a question of being faithful to what we had been called to do.
To do it with grace and a deep sense that "if the Lord is in it" then all we had to do was go through the prayers. To go through the liturgy that we had chosen. To go about the routine of our lives and do the things we were committed to. In the knowledge that what we are doing is for and unto the Lord.
So, what does that have to do with our service tonight? Well, we find ourselves in a pretty isolated spot this evening. Here at Christ Church, it is just Jim and me. Paul is working tonight so he can't be here to operate the video. It will be very static, there won't be much movement in the video trying to catch special elements or moments. We really have no idea how many people will be viewing what we do.
All that doesn't matter.
If we do what we have committed to do and do it for and unto the Lord. He will honor that. As we bring our needs and the needs of the community before the Lord we are expressing the faith of the Centurian and Jarius in the one who as Isaiah expresses it: "was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."