We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (I John 1:3).
Paragraphs 1-6: Preamble (April 11-29)
Paragraphs 7-12: Creation (April 30-May 8)
Paragraphs 13-17: Fall (May 11-15)
Paragraphs 18-22: Redemption (May 18-22)
Paragraphs 23-27: Jesus Christ
Paragraphs 28-30: Holy Spirit
We are on familiar territory in Paragraph 36, this thing we typically call “church.” When we “go to church,” we perform these acts of worship. So it is instructive to consider this paragraph at such a time as this, when a pandemic keeps us from “going to church.”
All of this allows us to keep enjoying “fellowship.” The word derives from a Greek word meaning “common” (and is itself a very common word), as in, “the things we have in common.” As 1 John 1:3 tells us, it refers to the faith we share in common with one another, and also, by the abundant grace of God, what we together share in common with the Trinity. When the name “Fellowship” was chosen for this local expression of Jesus’ church, there were no doubt memories of times when war kept the church from gathering. Yet by God’s grace this congregation carried on. By God’s grace, now, when we likewise experience fellowship while scattered, we continue to celebrate and are nourished.
I found these words from the Orthodox Church of Canada, written for Lent this year, helpful:
Community members scattered widely. … This was the deliberate practice of the monastery of Abba Zosima in the sixth century Palestinian desert, every Lent. On the Sunday of Forgiveness, the brethren would prostrate themselves to each other and ask forgiveness and receive a blessing from their abbot. Then each would take whatever food he felt he needed for himself and walk out into the desert, singing “The Lord is my light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 26:1) For the next forty days, deliberately, each one would turn away if they spotted any other of their brothers on the horizon. …
2020 is not the Year of the Pandemic; it is still the Year of Our Lord. Our bishop in the Archdiocese of Canada has just written the following to all his clergy:
“God is giving us a crash course on prayer….. Is our faith only centred on Sunday Liturgies? Or are we centered on prayer? Sunday morning Liturgies should be the climax of our prayer life, which is our intimate relationship with Our Lord. Praying at home is essential for all of us. Now we have to realize this and fall back on it.”
My simple encouragement to you is to be the church today, alone, with a friend, with a small group. Our song today is Fernando Ortega’s “Give me Jesus.” Allow it to bring you into worship, from the morning when you rise, and forward through your day.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
PS - Online office hours tomorrow will be 11am - noon. Just click on that link to open a video conference session.