What does it feel like to be alone? Sometimes it’s a relief and sometimes it’s not.
Many of us have known that all too well during the two years of pandemic. None of us asked for this time by ourselves or with a circle of a few other people. For some of us, loneliness has been emotionally devastating. At various points in the past two years, we’ve been deprived of seeing family, worshiping with others at Plymouth, sharing a hug with a friend.
At last Sunday’s first face-to-face services the feeling of joy at being back together in worship was palpable. It is so different to celebrate communion together with others in the same room, to have kids come forward for the time with children, to preach to human beings in the pews, rather than the one eye of the video camera. And it was great to catch up with people at coffee hour and in the adult ed. forum! What was it like for you if you joined us in person? See an old friend? Make a new one? Greet some of the visitors we had at each service? Experience the collective voice of singing a hymn?
None of us knows what the future holds in terms of the behavior of Covid, but for now, I think we should live and worship with gusto. The musical term “con brio” means with spirit or with vigor, and that’s how I plan to walk through Lent this year, relishing the presence of our congregation in worship. I’m also aware the Lent can be a time for sabbath, for resting in God. I wonder…are there ways of sabbath that can be done “con brio?”
We are using a Lenten devotional and worship materials called “Filled to the Brim,” which seems a little counterintuitive for the way most of us observe this season that is meant to help us deepen our faith. Some of us see Lent as a lead-in to Good Friday and Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, but there is another way to view this 40-day season. Jesus spent 40 days alone in the wilderness on something like a vison quest that prepared him for his brief and incredibly influential ministry. What if we approach Lent as a time in the wilderness when we are challenged to go a bit deeper in our faith than we usually do? Maybe do a few things (or refrain from doing things) that stretch us slightly out of our comfort zones? What might that mean for you? Using the Lenten devotional booklet? Attending worship every Sunday? Finding a few more minutes each day to spend in prayer and contemplation? Stretching to do something for another person, even someone you don’t know?
I wonder if as we reflect on Jesus’ forty days of wilderness wandering — alone — if we might find inspiration to work with the images of aloneness and companionship during Lent. How might our intention of spending time intentionally be a form of sabbath?
What if we embrace where we are right now with enthusiasm and come back together as a community of faith? What changes might be possible in the way you approach and live your faith? What if we can find sabbath in our togetherness? Lent is a season full of possibility. May it be fruitful for you!
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal here.