One of the disciplines that I set for myself as the congregation of St. Andrew’s went into isolation mode was to re-read Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for nothing: finding calm in a chaotic world.
It is certainly true that the world around has is growing more and more chaotic. A seemingly uncontrollable virus and the anxiety it breeds is seen in panic buying and hoarding. Yet it is also seen in the way we don’t hear the message of the experts.
For the church that advice was hard to take. We love our places of worship and the people we worship with. We don’t want to give that up. Yet underneath our anxiety about no longer being able to worship together is the fear that if we stop meeting, people will use this as an opportunity to stop worshiping all together. We worry we won’t get some of the people back when we are able to get together again.
And we have financial worries at this time. People with less income will give smaller offerings. People who only give when they are present in worship will stop bringing their offering at all.
There is so much unknown territory to negotiate.
Yet we are the church. No let me rephrase that: WE ARE THE CHURCH! As the church we are called to put our confidence in God and I believe that we are called to look for his opportunity in every circumstance.
Max Lucado writes: Less fret, more faith. He reminds us that anxiety is a “meteor shower of what ifs.”
To me that means that faith is a meteor shower of possibilities.
This morning the alarm on my phone rang persistently from the kitchen counter where it was plugged in charging. I could hear it and I struggled to break the cobwebs of a dream to go and shut it off.
But the dream would not let me go.
It was a dream of a worship service; but not a worship service as we know it.
The service started in one room of a house, then it moved into another, and yet another. As we moved locations the people in the service changed, some familiar and well loved, others strangers yet greeted as long lost friends.
In one room we all wore Adam and Eve costumes and then the next place we gathered was by the pool and we scrambled to find bathing suits.
What could the dream mean?
For the congregation where I am minister there is a great truth to us being in many rooms as we all go to the website and pull up the script of the worship service, read along, sing the hymns and join in the prayers.
And while that it part of the meaning of the dream it is not all of it.
The moving rooms, changing congregation are signs that the church needs to be always evolving, always growing, and changing. We can’t be the people that build God’s Church if we remain isolated in our buildings. We need to look beyond our walls and see the world. I wonder if that’s the opportunity to which we are being called at this time.
And still the dream was about more.
The Adam and Eve costumes are reminders that we all share the DNA of sinfulness, while the worship at the pool reminds us that in Baptism we have all been immersed in and filled with the DNA of Jesus. I wonder if the opportunity to which we are being called at this time is to think about what Jesus would do from his bubble of self isolation. Is this an opportunity to look at how to be THE CHURCH in different ways?
For me that begs prayerful consideration. I still posted a full script of the worship service that I would have prepared had we gathered within the walls of St. Andrew’s, even as I work differently from home. Could I have done something differently?
I also note with joy that the people of St. Andrew’s are working out what being THE CHURCH means for them at this time. They keep in touch by phone and talk a lot more. They pray for each other daily. One woman sent a lovely letter and invited us all to tea, the tea bag was included in the envelope.
We have started well, and I am eager to see where the Holy Spirit will lead us next.
Max Lucado writes that the presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. Every time we engage the congregation and the world in a different way we are demonstrating that we are not prisoners of COVID anxiety, but rather set free to bring love, hope and peace into the world around us in countless little ways.
Lucado suggests that we need to live by the words of Philippians 4
Philippians 4:4-9 The Message (MSG)
4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Lucado writes that to triumph over anxiety we need to follow the four steps that Paul outlines.
- Celebrate God’s goodness
- Ask God for help
- Leave your concerns with God
- Meditate on good things
If the Church can be the calm in the midst of this storm, then we will be able to be still and hear the challenge God brings us to take the opportunity to BE THE CHURCH in a whole new way.
Let us pray:
Creating God, we see the world you have made and we rejoice in the way you cause it to provide for all of us.
Abba, Father who hears all our prayers we ask you to open your pathway for us, to be your presence for one another and for the world
Loosen us from the bonds of anxiety and help us to drop it all before you.
Minister to our spirits so that we know deep within the assurance of your presence and radiate that peace to all whom we meet.
If you have not yet found a way to worship and wish to join us at St. Andrew’s here is the link to today’s worship service. Peace and Blessing to you all.