How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1
And let us consider how we may provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. Hebrews 10:24-25
Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them, Matthew 18-20
Jesus lived his life in community. He was not a recluse or a loner. As a child he lived with his parents and siblings (Mark and Matthew name four brothers and some unnamed sisters). He was a part of his community, and was known in Nazareth. He called and traveled with his twelve disciples. He was supported along the way by crowds of gathered listeners. We know he was friends with Mary of Bethany and her sister, Martha, and her brother, Lazarus. At times, Jesus sought solitude to rest and pray, but living in community was a part of who he was when he inhabited this earth.
My sweet grandson is six, an only child whose closest cousin lives in Michigan. He has been lonely since school closed last spring, and virtual play dates just don’t do it for him, and Grammy is not a sufficiently energetic playmate. For the past four weeks, however, he has been in a carefully structured Day Camp (outdoors, masks required, no touching) for a few hours each day. It has made the world of difference in his countenance and his disposition. He needed to be with others who had similar desires and needs. He needed his own community. I guess we all need that.
During the nine weeks I have been in Massachusetts I have missed my community in eastern North Carolina – although I know that even had I been in New Bern, The Virus would have made me miss you anyhow. Much of what I miss has been the gathered community at worship. I have watched worship online (from Centenary and various other churches) but it just does not seem to fill the void that is left when the whole community does not gather and pray and sing together. I have had the opportunity to hear two of my sons preach: Benjamin, the eldest, preached on Laity Sunday (recorded) at first Congregational Church of Norwood (I feel I must explain that Norwood does not have a United Methodist Church), and I was able to tune in to First United Methodist Church of Sudbury (Massachusetts) to see my middle son (who is minister of children and youth at that church) preach. I think they both did quite well and I am proud of them. Still, it was not like being there, among fellow worshippers.
On this past Sunday, I went with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson to outdoor worship in Norwood. That dressed casually, sat in our folding chairs, sang into our masks, and greeted one another from a safe distance following the service. It was good, but was not exactly like what I longed for. As I sat in the shade of towering Norway maple trees and faced the front doors of the FCC of Norwood, I saw in letters carved above those wide, white doors these words: Gathered 1736. Gathered. How beautiful those words seemed to me. And nearly 300 years later, gathered still. They gather together to worship our Lord. And so do we. Whether in our church building as a gathered body, or in our homes as gathered spirits, we are gathered. Thanks be to God for that blessing.
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love
the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.
Gracious and loving Creator God, we thank you that even during days that are stressful and lonely, we know that we are never truly alone. You will never leave us alone, and will always stay with us. Help us to guide others to your beautiful, gracious presence. And bless the Body of Christ on earth, the Church, that we may be ever faithful to you in all things. Amen.
Pastor Rachel Moser