Weekly Lifelines 11/19/2020

The decision hate the most is the one about canceling church. Until this spring, I’ve made that decision just a handful of times in the last ten years. It’s always a relief when Sunday’s sunrise reveals a huge amount of snow and justifies the decision.
Although I’m grateful for the tacit affirmation that canceling our in-person worship was the right decision, I won’t say that that yesterday’s executive order, aimed at slowing the alarming spread of covid in Minnesota, came as a relief. Quite the opposite, in fact. It left me feeling scared and anxious about the next month. I’m concerned about rising levels of disease in our community. I’m worried about the increased isolation this will bring. Staying home and apart is the right move, no doubt. But it feels like a real blow, coming right at the time of year when we combat the heaviness of early afternoon darkness by gathering together with friends and family.
I’m finding peace these days in a simple prayer I found during my sojourn with the Orthodox church. It’s called the Jesus prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,Son of God,have mercy on me.
This ancient prayer is said (or thought, really) with the breath, inhaling and exhaling on alternate lines. I close my eyes and breathe in Jesus. I breathe out the Son of God. I breathe in mercy. I breathe out peace.
This little prayer is also infinitely variable: When I’m feeling penitential, I add “a sinner” at the end. Sometimes I pray, “have mercy on us” instead. Sometimes, when God feels particularly close, I pray “Son of the living God.”

Whatever the particulars, I return to this prayer as a way of centering myself on the one who guides me in all things. When I don’t know what else to pray, when I’m feeling anxious or afraid or alone, when I don’t know how to express my joy, this is how I pray:
Lord Jesus Christ,Son of God,have mercy on me.
I’m hopeful that the next four weeks will slow the spread of covid in our community. I’m thinking of everyone for whom these new rules mean more hardship, isolation, or unemployment. I’m praying that our community and our nation come together to spread health and safety in place of disease and fear. And I’m praying for God’s presence and mercy, grace and peace in all of it.
Lord Jesus Christ,Son of God,have mercy on us.
If there’s anything I can do support you through these days, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Yours in Christ, Justin  

revjustinc@gmail.com 612-618-3826

P.S. If you haven’t yet watched the video I linked to last week, go check it out. It’s a moving vision of church reinvention. Watch it here.

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