Reflection written by Callum Williams
Readings - Proverbs 30:5-9; Psalm 119:105-112; Luke 9:1-6
‘Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal’ - Luke 9:1-2
What reaction might you have if you see a gathering of people above the guidance we have been given? What if you see people who are not socially distancing as they should? Pause and imagine for a moment the reaction you might see from passers-by or authorities if Jesus gathered together the twelve disciples today. When he calls his disciples together with him without the crowds, there would be a sense and expectation of intimacy. It would be done to draw away from the crowds. They would be huddled closely together and not worried about whether they were keeping 1m+ or 2m away from one another, they would have been focused on the time spent with Jesus.
How do we draw together as a church and grow in our intimacy with Christ when we have to keep apart from one another?
I am not for a moment suggesting we disregard the regulations put in place so we can gather together in physical proximity of one another. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we gather together as a body of Christ. We gather to worship, pray, to hear or read the scriptures and to receive the Eucharist. This is usually how we draw together in intimacy to Christ today. Does this mean we all have to be present physically in the building? No and at this time it may not be possible for all to gather together. Some will continue to be shielding or some simply may not feel comfortable returning yet. This does not exclude those who are not able to be physically present from an increased intimacy and coming together with Christ. We can draw close to Christ and come together by participating in worship together online. It will have a different feel to it and you will not be able to receive the Eucharist but it is just as valid as attending the service physically.
Jesus starts by calling us together but what comes next? The instruction to be sent out.
What does it mean for us to be sent out?
We are not called to contain the message of the Gospel within the church but are sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God. Being sent out is the instruction to interact with those outside of the church to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to them.
What does proclaiming the kingdom of God look like for us as a church in the midst of a pandemic?
Proclaiming the kingdom of God in the midst of a pandemic is a strange idea. It is both easier and harder. The church has a great opportunity to engage and interact with people in new and different ways. Before the pandemic, a limited number of churches engaged with streaming their services online (or posting them once they had finished). The pandemic gave rise to an incredible number of churches using online platforms to reach and engage with people. This allows and enables the church to reach a wider range of people but how many are actually engaging and investing in church or Christ as a result of this? We need to find a way to follow up on the seemingly impossible task - following up with the anonymous viewer. A task that is difficult for all but simple steps could be made towards helping with this. We could start by, for example, creating an email address for those who have watched the service to email if they are new and want to engage with the church more fully.
Proclaiming the kingdom of God in the midst of a pandemic can give rise to others drawing close to Christ.
The compassion of Christ can be best outworked when there is no hope to be found elsewhere. The love of Christ can be outworked by offering service and interaction with those who can get it from no other source.
What does proclaiming the kingdom of God look like for us as individuals in the midst of a pandemic?
In the midst of all this, one of the ways in which I have been given the opportunity to proclaim the kingdom of God is by beginning this writing of regular reflections. Therefore for me, it seems apt to begin this journey of writing weekly reflections for St Francis on a passage that includes the instruction to be proclaiming the kingdom of God (Luke 9:2). We are living in times we never thought we would find ourselves. A time where we have spent most of the year having to stay at home and keep to our households. There has been limited opportunity to gather together with friends, our families or as a church. This does not mean as individuals we cannot proclaim the kingdom of God to our friends, families or neighbours.
What can we do to proclaim the kingdom of God at this time? We can make ourselves known and we can make ourselves stand out. This could be done by putting a note through our neighbours doors with contact details telling them if they need to self-isolate, for example, we are willing to do their shopping on their behalf and drop it at their door. If we make ourselves known by our actions, we can create openings for conversations. We can then say I’m doing this because Jesus Christ has instructed me to love my neighbour and share the good news of who Jesus is.
Another way we can proclaim the kingdom of God in this time is to invite people to watch the service online. Many may not be prepared to physically go to a church at the moment but may need a source of comfort which means they could be willing to begin to interact with the church virtually before stepping towards engaging in person. We could offer to pray for our neighbours or those we do come into (socially distanced) contact with. We may be surprised how many people are accommodating to the notion of prayer and being prayed for. If the individual does not pray, they may still accept the offer because they have nothing to lose by praying .
The kingdom of God can be proclaimed best when we draw near to Christ to be sent out.
How will you proclaim the kingdom of God and offer the hope of Jesus to someone else this week?