I read an article on the Internet today proclaiming that watching recently released movies will help ease our covid19 anxieties. While there is nothing wrong with watching movies et al., movies at best can only serve as temporary distractions. If we are to believe the medical experts, we are about to see a “wave” of new cases grow on an exponential scale. If true, we had better be prepared to deal with reality that we will know some who contract this disease and some may die. How what spiritual resources do you have to help you handle this grim reality?
I don’t say this to scare us. God knows we’re scared enough as it is. I say it to expose the lie that anything short of a rock-solid relationship with God is what we need to ease our fears and anxieties. Why? Because only in God do we find life and only in Christ do we find ultimate victory over death, whether it be from this plague or something else. Our mortal death is inevitable, barring the Lord’s return before our time comes. What this plague has done is to force us to deal with the reality of death instead of whistling through the graveyard, trying with all our might to avoid its reality. Watching movies to keep us distracted so we can deflect our anxieties is not a good plan. Know Christ your rock and then watch your movies, but in that order. You will find the results are eminently more satisfactory.
So how do we deepen our relationship with Christ? The Church has always taught that God gives us means of grace to develop a relationship with our living Lord. Prayer, Bible reading/study, Christian fellowship, worship, and holy communion have long been recognized to be effective in helping us grow in Christ. So how are you doing with these things?
When it comes to prayer, the Church has always offered the daily office, four times a day when we pray together (in addition to the time we spend in prayer talking and listening to God on our own) that have a track record of proven results when it comes to deepening our relationship with God. Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline (night prayer) are times when the Church comes together to read holy Scripture and offer up prayers based on Scripture and prayers offered from the heart. While it is call daily prayer, this is actually the vehicle to read a good chunk of Holy Scripture over a two-year reading cycle. In addition, our diocese is asking people to engage in continuous prayer for those involved in this crisis. You can sign up for 20 minute blocks of prayer time and you don’t need to be a professional pray-er to do this.
During these extraordinary times, we are offering Morning and Evening Prayer via Zoom at 9am and 6pm respectively. So if you are feeling anxious or desperate or isolated or stir crazy or whatever, instead of binge watching a bunch of movies/series, why don’t you use this time to develop and deepen your relationship with God? I don’t care how mature we are as Christians, every one of us, myself included (perhaps especially?), can grow in our relationship with God so when the flood waters rise, we know where our rock is to rescue us. Currently we are only averaging about 5-6 people for daily prayer and that breaks my heart for those of you who stay away because you are cutting yourself off from real power, God’s power, that will help sustain you in these trying and anxious times.
Daily Prayer is not some magical elixir that will suddenly make all your problems go away. You have to persevere and stay with it. You have to give God a chance to work in and through it to strengthen and sustain you. I don’t know how long that will take but I can promise you this. If you stick with it and approach it with an open mind/spirit, you will be transformed, just like you will be transformed when you worship regularly on Sundays and participate in the liturgy of the Word and Sacrament. God is pleased to display his love, peace, presence, and power in and through these means of grace to speak to you and to comfort and sustain you with his word and sacraments. Are you wise enough to take God up on his offer to do so?
Please do not read any of this as a scolding. Nothing is further from the truth. Read it as me encouraging you to do what you need to do to take your relationship with Christ to the next and deeper level. It’s not magic. It’s not a mystery. Prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, and the sacrament of holy communion have always been available to Christians for this purpose. So if you want to ease your anxiety, go to God your rock, your strength, and your redeemer. Meet him in these means of grace. Develop the discipline of participating in these means of grace and watch how God uses them to help you grow in your discipleship.
Here are a list of activities and their Zoom links. Please join us regularly via the Zoom app. We need each other and we all need to grow in our discipline and discipleship with our Living Lord.
Stations of the Cross (Fridays at 6pm)
Join URL: https://zoom.us/j/712795048
Sunday Worship (10am)
Join URL: https://zoom.us/j/652539504
Morning Prayer (Monday-Friday at 9am)
Join URL: https://zoom.us/j/419118370
Evening Prayer (Monday-Thursday at 6pm)
Join URL: https://zoom.us/j/451211681
In closing, know that I pray for you each and every day and I covet your prayers for me to be a good pastor and priest for you. If you need to talk to me, call me anytime. I will encourage and comfort you in God’s strength as I am able in the power of the Spirit and you are willing to accept the gift. In the meantime,
I remain your in Christ, my beloved.