Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. -Jeremiah 33:3
We find ourselves in uncertain times. This is true for us as individuals and also for us as a church. Some things will return to the way there were before the pandemic. But certainly other things won’t. This will likely produce some disorientation for us. As one of us has put it, as though we were thrown into the wilderness without a map.
So as we move together into our future as a church I want to suggest five practices for us that will help us find our new footings.
Surrender. When the changes from the pandemic first hit us, many people (including myself) felt a surge of energy behind new ways to connect, new technologies to learn, finding new ways to help. The word striving comes to mind. But as time lingers on, we may find ourselves restless, worn out or scared about what the future will hold. Times like these are often times when God pushes us towards surrender.
Surrender, as a Christian practice, does not mean being lazy, indifferent or passive. Surrender means trusting God’s Spirit to lead us, and allowing this leading to infiltrate every corner of our lives. Every. Corner.
Surrender is a stance. It is a posture. It comes from deep inside of us. It is a way of living that accepts what we cannot control, that believes God is sovereign and trusts that God’s Spirit will direct our lives. Surrender acknowledges when we are beyond our resources and knowledge. It admits that our answers and our knowledge are only in part. So in response we yield our spirits to God’s leading.
Listening. In order to listen we must first value that there is something for us to hear. We must attend to the one we are listening to. We must be available and ready to receive what is offered. This readiness requires humility.
Now, more than ever, we must practice “listening prayer”. So that we might know what the voice of God sounds like in our lives: to hear God’s voice speak to our spirits, to hear God’s voice speak through others and to hear God’s voice speak through the Scriptures.
It is also true that now is a time for us to dedicate ourselves to listening to one another. Our brothers and sisters have experienced incredible change, uncertainty and loss. Offering a listening ear may seem like a small act, but to be heard is a gift. It is an act of love.
Intentionality. A yearning for the return of normal life is natural. But this does not mean that we should go back to life as usual. What things were in our lives before this pandemic that need to be left behind? Perhaps busyness? Materialism? Neglecting our souls? And what things have been born during this time that we should nurture? Longer walks? Reaching out to loved ones? A renewed commitment to helping others?
We will have to be intentional about these matters. There have always been powerful forces pulling us away from things like simplicity and selflessness.
This is true for us as a church just as it is for us as individuals. What have we discovered about Emmaus church in the past two months? What do we not want to let go of? And likewise, what do we need to let go of? What should be left behind where it belongs?
Innovation. I am proud of our church. The amount of innovation and adaptability that we have displayed in the past two months is remarkable. There are too many examples to name.
My biggest concern when this all started was how people were going to feel connected to and cared for by their church. Emmaus has always relied so much on our ability to gather together. With that taken away from us, I was anxious that we would become disconnected, that our sense of belonging at Emmaus would diminish.
But our sense of belonging has truly persevered. Our commitment to each other and to our community has been revealed in a new way. Based on the innovation of the past two months, I am hopeful for more new methods and new strategies for ministry that await us. Now is a time for us to try new ways to extend the ministries of our church to others.
Courage. It is common that when people display courage in life they do not feel courageous. This is because courage is needed in times of fear and anxiety. It is also because courage requires vulnerability. Put simply, being vulnerable when we are scared does not feel like courage. But it is.
In the coming days we will be called upon to be courageous. We will need to admit our fears and anxieties and take actions that require vulnerability. But we will do so together. And we will do so empowered by God’s Spirit. We can be courageous in what God calls us to do and be. Because our courage is not predicated on our abilities. Rather, it is based on God’s presence with us. And of this I am certain, Jesus is with us, now and forever.