I wrote this to be used in our newsletter.
How do you stay connected? During this time of ongoing illness within our land, how does a person stay connected to God and to one another? In some ways the pandemic has robbed us of those moments of worship that we so love and sometimes need. We have basically missed the most significant times of worship during Easter and now Christmas. Additionally, we have not escaped the specter of COVID19 in our lives. By now we probably all know of friends or family members who have or are directly dealing with this illness. During these struggles where do we find our spiritual encouragement and the reminders we need to continue in our faith?
Part of religious practice is a function of the habits we live with. Luke 4:16 speaks of Jesus going to the Synagogue “…as was his custom”. The Greek word used for custom is “etho” from which we get our word ethos. The Ethos of a person or group speaks to the values, attitudes, and habits of living. Luke basically is telling us that Jesus went to church because it was his habit. He valued religious life.
My hope for each of us in these uncommon times is that we might create and keep some new religious habits until such time that we can once again return to living more collectively.
Make use to the internet to stay in touch with what your church is doing and sharing. Catch the sermons on Facebook. I post the sermon and worship videos I create to www.facebook.com/LakeCityUMC. Visit my BLOG at revrussellblog.wordpress.com/. If you subscribe to my blog by entering your email address, new content is delivered to your email. This is a good way to stay informed since I try to put most updates on my BLOG. Check into your church website. I continue to keep working with these as well. Besides our local church, our greater church continues to express itself online. Look online for our Bishop’s messages.
Continue to nurture your faith through continued prayer and study. Even when we are by ourselves, we are still able to read our Bible, use devotional materials, or Bible study material.
During these extended moments of waiting give yourself permission to simply breath. Sometimes I think uncommon moments can tend to create a lot of anxiety within us. We feel that we don’t know what to do. There are moments when our anxiety may be justified, but a lot of times we just need to trust in God and breath. Life is a function of breathing in and out. There are moments of bringing life in and there are moments of exhaling life out. This thought reminded me of an ancient Christian practice known as breath prayer. It is the idea of allowing a bible verse or mantra to inhibit your pattern of breathing.
Perhaps one of the earliest forms of this idea uses Bartimaeus words: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The idea is to simply relax. Inhale and then slowly exhale and say “Jesus Son of David…” and then inhale and under one’s breath complete the verse “…have mercy on me.” This can be repeated as a person wishes. The goal is for that moment to center your heart and life upon the prayer, and connect to God in a deeper way. The words of the breath prayer can be anything that speaks to you and through you, and brings a meaningful connection with God into your life. All of this reminds us that it is God who gives us breath and life. There can be something holistically affirming about faith and life through this practice.
All of this is about being connected and remembering that God is a part of life and living. Stay connected in some manner. Keep praying and the world will be healed.