Thursday, June 11, 2020
NO LONGER - NOT YET
Dear All of Us,
An older woman had stopped going to synagogue.
The rabbi went to visit.
They sat quietly in front of the fireplace.
The rabbi picked up the tongs.
He took a glowing coal from the fire,
set it on the brick hearth.
The small coal slowly lost its glow, blackened, and died out.
After more quiet, the older woman said,
"I understand. I'll come back to synagogue."
Community is essential in our spiritual lives.
Separated from the intensity of a spiritual community,
like that coal separated from the fire,
our spirit loses its glow, blackens and dies out.
Community is essential in our spiritual lives.
The Pan Problem has separated us
from our spiritual communities
in a lot of painful ways.
We need each other up close and personal.
It's rough trying to have a bonfire
with individual logs spread all over the field.
This separation is a hardship for sure.
Things are No Longer as they were
and they are Not Yet what they will be.
We are like the crews that were stuck
on board cruise ships, not allowed into port.
It was No Longer what it was months ago
and it was Not Yet what they so long for.
In our own way we are adrift nowhere.
What are we to do?
We need to do what the followers of Jesus
have done over the centuries -
find the best possible way to be together.
That has taken many, many forms
moving from No Longer toward Not Yet
in the Just Now.
Separated from Jesus after his death,
the first followers were confused and frightened.
They hid out, stuck together, prayed
and waited for the promised Spirit.
Inspirited at Pentecost, they hit the streets
inviting everyone in on the life.
The early Christian communities
were not socially preferred
to painfully persecuted.
They formed themselves into
small, close knit,
caring and sharing
The Roman Christians were hunted
and thrown to the lions.
They went under ground -
The Catacomb Church.
They rose above limit.
John Wesley was concerned.
The Church of England
was a stiff, arrogant dark shadow
of a spiritual community
during the Industrial Revolution.
John Wesley went into the slums
and mining towns of England.
He gathered the dirty poor into small groups
for spiritual support and shared life.
In Communist prison camps
Christians didn't have
church buildings or programs.
They had each other.
They sacrificed and cared for one another
and other prisoners as well.
They lived beautifully as The Body of Christ
in rags and suffering.
Their togetherness was a Holy Communion
in attitude and action.
The poor and marginalizes of South America
found themselves spiritually starved,
Gospel denied, in a church owned by
the state and it's wealthy elites.
They formed Base Communities.
Gathering in small, close, caring local groups,
they applied and lived
the Gospel personally and socially.
It was Liberation Theology
for sure, for self, for society.
For all of these it was/is community
No Longer as it was
and Not Yet what it would be.
So it is for us.
We, too, are seeking
the best possible ways
we can to share the intensity,
the fire of the Spirit,
to be in community as
The Body of Christ during this
No Longer and Not Yet of our Just Now:
Tonight about ten of us from
our local and closed church
are connecting through ZOOM
for a Happy Hour -
sharing spirits and Spirit.
A Men's Spirituality Group
does Soul Share by ZOOM.
For others it is Bible Study,
Small Bubble Groups gather for
faith sharing, fellowship and a meal,
in person once a week.
Some are families. Others are singles.
(it is a select and committed quarantine)
A core of five each call two
isolated members of their closed church
each day. That amounts to
seventy "communions" a week.
They share conversation,
trouble shoot and resource.
"Old pastors never die.
They just do spiritual direction"-
these days by phone/facetime.
This "old pastor" is
so privileged twice a day -
it's a really good connection for both us -
(and it keeps me off the street
and out of the lounge chair!!).
Some stream a Eucharistic Service
and place a white napkin
in front of the screen.
They have a little piece of bread
and a small glass of wine there
and share in Holy Communion.
Jesus used what was available
for communion at The Last Supper.
They use what's available
in our No Longer and Not Yet.
The issue isn't physical distance,
polity or transmission.
It's Holy Communion.
A good connect here is
The National Cathedral in Washington DC.
They live streamed the Eucharist
at 11:15 A.M., east coast USA time,
Sunday mornings as does
St. John's Abbey, Collegeville MN,
at 10:30 CDT.
Using a variety of media,
mentors meet with youth weekly
as they prepare for Confirmation.
Prayerfully we discern
our means and others' needs,
funding those needs,
being in supportive community.
Here in DC "Charlie's Place"
is a vibrant group gathered
to feed and assist the homeless.
Check out (perhaps with a check)
such groups where you live.
Consider forming a group
of parents and
2020 high school graduates
as they try to figure
their way forward toward college.
Perhaps you could ask
an educator from your community
to facilitate and gather online.
A group from the church
could use media to discuss
and be proactive
in addressing social
and environmental issues.
Members of spiritual communities
have sacrificed social distancing
and possibly their health.
They come together
to peacefully protest both police
and systemic racial injustice.
Hopefully they we find ways
to band together for
the long, hard work ahead
to secure racial justice
and societal unity.
pastor of Foundry
United Methodist Church
here in DC put it well:
"The building is closed.
The Church is open"
There are ever so many ways
to be and do spiritual community
in these really difficult times.
We can't have what is
No longer nor what is Not Yet.
We can be and have community
in what is our Right Now.
Christians have done it
over the millennia.
It's essential to our spiritual lives
that we be and do such.
We don't want to
lose our glow, darken, die out.
We need others and they need us.
WE'VE A FIRE TO BE
The story of the older lady
and the rabbi is adapted from
VISION 2000 Praying Scripture
in a Contemporary Way
by Mark Link.
Thanks to my friend Michael Byler
for the referral.
Here's a grateful
to all who invited many, many others
to our little community here last week.
A warm welcome to all new to
spirituality for the street
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