I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.Philippians 1:3-5
In this time of Covid and social distancing, I have developed a new appreciation for the ways in which Paul greets churches that are out of his reach. They are either too far away or in the context of Philippians, Paul is restricted to his tiny jail cell, not able to leave even if he wanted to. While social distancing should not be compared to jail, many of us can understand what it feels like to long for the presence of others. We yearn for potlucks, in-person communion, and large celebrations. We want so badly to return to pre-pandemic ways of being and are frustrated to see numbers begin to climb yet again.
I felt that this past month when I attended the United Church of Christ’s virtual General Synod. It is typically a time of networking, an opportunity to experience the Spirit’s work within local congregations throughout the country. We gather and sing together. We take communion with one another and learn new ways of being Church through workshops. While the Spirit was certainly moving throughout Synod, my fellow delegates of the Heartland Conference (formerly known as the Ohio Conference) all agreed that we missed the parking lot conversations, those impromptu run-ins where you could connect at a deeper level. Something was missing.
Maybe this is why Paul emphasized prayer so much, it filled what was missing. Through prayer, which is a way of saying, through our awareness of God’s presence, we can in fact be connected with one another even if we are separated by space and time. Paul clearly believes in prayer and the unexplainable ways it overcomes those boundaries that frustrate us humans so much. I imagine Paul would have used a phone operator as a metaphor if he had it, where God connects the wires between us, transcends our divisions and plugs us into one another when we simply can not.
Know this, you are not alone in your longing or yearning, but God has created a way out of no way. So if you feel disconnected, I invite you to pause for 10 minutes… find a comfortable place in your home or outside…take a deep breath in …and out… all while letting go of that pesky to do list in your head … and quietly sit with who it is you long to connect with? Who is it, that you miss their presence, their laugh, their cooking, their energy? I invite you to stay there in that moment. Let the Spirit lead you. Talk to them if you feel led or let them talk to you. You can simply sit beside them. Trust Paul, the operator is standing by to connect you.
Ever-Present God, we give thanks for this time to remember those whom we can’t be near. We give thanks that you connect us with one another despite many boundaries. In these days, where something always seems to missing, may we turn to you and be filled with the only thing that makes us one. Amen.