They have my email address out there. They do. And they know I’m a pastor. Everyday my inbox contains promotions for all things church related. You need church furniture? I can get it for you. Church equipment? Choir robes? Nursery furniture for church? Music for church? Welcome kits for church? Toilet paper for church (oh yes, its true–though I haven’t gotten that offer since Corona began)? I can get it all from myriad daily offers.
This morning, instead of going through my usual ritual of deleting without reading, I opened a couple of emails. I would describe the language I read as desperate or frantic in the offers to help me: “Keep your church connected at this time.” Suggestions were offered for MASS texting and MASS emailing. Those were just two among many suggestions in various emails. I got the feeling that they believe the worse catastrophe that could befall us is to be disconnected. Is it? You all know that I am all about community: becoming community, growing community, reaching our community. Being community requires connection, but it also requires disconnection. In carefully investigating and studying the life of Jesus, this is what the gospel writer Luke discovered: Luke 5:16 “But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” As people told Luke their stories about Jesus, they remembered Him as one who would go off, go away, retire, disappear. By His own choice, the places for His getaways were isolated and uninhabited.
We have all seen enough images of the Middle East to conjure up in our minds what that desert or wilderness might have looked like. We can picture Jesus in the midst of it. Alone. Praying. Perhaps we picture Him face down or maybe moving through rocks or boulders or scrub-brush talking to His Father as He walks along.
In any case, what we imagine is a picture of disconnection. Jesus disconnected from others in order to connect with His Father through prayer. As Luke recorded the story in his gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he chose words and tenses to convey that this behavior of Jesus was something that He did regularly or continually.
In this time of what seems like desperate or frantic attempts to stay connected (and again we need to be connected), it would be sad if we missed the opportunity that COVID-19 is forcing upon us to stay in and slow down. We have a government mandate to disconnect. We can disconnect and few if any will criticize us for it! So instead of desperately looking for ways to get around that mandate, why not follow the example of Jesus and disconnect so that we can connect with our Father?
If you find that the disconnection is really difficult for you, explore the reasons and emotions that make that true about you. Know that your Father wants to be alone with you. He has designed it so your relationship with Him and my relationship with Him thrives and grows and flourishes (imagine the picture above filled with flowers and blossoms and blooms) when we are alone with Him. When that is true of your relationship with the Lord, imagine the difference it will make in every other relationship in your life! In the end, the more we disconnect the better we will be at connecting with and being community for each other. When this virus is over (and we pray that God in His mercy will bring that about quickly) and things are back to “normal,” let’s be thankful that our limp hands seized this opportunity to disconnect with others so that we might beautifully and intimately connect with God the Father.