The children of your elect sister send you their greetings. I have much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face. Peace to you. The friends send you their greetings. Greet the friends there, each by name. (3 John 13-15 NRSV)
It’s time to think about getting out. Not actually going out, and certainly not venturing with the habits that were so familiar they never merited attention, a mere six months ago. But planning the next steps, nonetheless. Planning, as The Epistle said, to “geed the friends there, each by name.” Though the Coronavirus may be called “novel,” the separation it has caused among friends and neighbors is an old story. Indeed, the great treasure of the Epistles came from the desire to be with the Church’s newest congregations when separation was required. Paul, the writers of the Letters of John, and perhaps others yearned each day to be where they were not, to do directly the work they nourished through correspondence in a day when a letter was entrusted to a traveler, walking across southern Europe and the Near East. See what magnificent work they accomplished!
These days, each faithful person has reluctantly accommodated and invented ways to praise God and to work ministry in new ways. We worship and work while yearning to be with beloved friends. Still, we accomplish the missions of every day in new, distant ways. Each day, God reveals that The Church is not the church building, and that the community of God transcends distance in accomplishing God’s work.
Even so, we strain to be with each other, so see familiar faces, join familiar voices in singing God’s praise. And we shall. We shall come together knowing new ways to praise and serve, with the experience of new places where the church has been. New places and new ways that we have been the church. And a renewed belief that God’s grace and the place of God’s people in this world only grow in adversity. Imagine what we will accomplish when the adversity has passed!
Therefore let us pray: Almighty God, the source of strength in adversity, comfort in suffering, peace in worry. We look to you this day and every day as our guide in times of illness and trouble. Lead us, we pray, to the renewal of this beloved community, help us to see you in every person we meet so that we may serve you by serving them, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Fr. Frank Fuller