What a week this has been!
Last Sunday we were trialing Zoom church and this Sunday it has become our only option! Also, in the course of this week, all church programmes and Community Centre activities have ceased to be physical gatherings and gone on hold or on line, and John, Cecelia and myself are now all working from home.
And so many Australians – friends and relatives and some members of our congregation – have faced even greater turmoil. Its not just holidays that have been put on hold. It is jobs and training and plans for the future.
In the midst of so much change and anxiety, my prayer for myself and others has been,“May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In unprecedented times, we need peace that passes all understanding. We need to know God is with us always.
My sister has a friend whose young son has Asperger’s syndrome and has been finding all the changes taking place at his Catholic primary school very challenging. So his mother sat down with him Tuesday night and suggested they write a new school schedule for the next day.
“What’s the first thing you used to do?” she asked.
“We used to have Assembly first, ” he said, “But there’s no Assembly now. ”
“OK” she said, “We’ll put ‘normal class’ on the schedule. What’s next?”
“Well,” he said, “Small group time was next. But there’s no small group time now. We just sit at separate desks and work.”
“OK,” she said, “We’ll put ‘separate work time’.”
“Oh no!” he said, “It is also the Annunciation of the Lord tomorrow! Does this mean the Annunciation has been cancelled.”
“No,” said his mother, “The Annunciation of the Lord cannot be cancelled.”
She was right. On Wednesday Christians all over the world celebrated the Annunciation, the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, telling her she would bear God’s Son.
As we listened to the reading from Luke, chapter 1, at prayers on Wednesday morning I was struck, first, by the repetition of the phrase ‘six months’ in the reading. (Verse 26, “in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God…”, and verse 36, “this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren”.) Even in the difficult period we face, that many say will last for six months, God will be with us. I was also reminded that Mary was also undoubtedly anxious about this unprecedented event in her life. What a powerful comfort Gabriel’s words were to her then – as they are for us as we continue to bear Christ in our current experience,“Do not be afraid… You have found favor with God.”
The Annunciation of the Lord cannot be cancelled. Not then. Not now. God continues to be with us, to be born in our experience – however dark and however uncertain. Thank you, God!
This Sunday we continue to gather to worship our God and to encourage each other. Apart from James Carter on the organ, Steve Blackburn behind the sound desk and myself in the pulpit, however, the rest of you will be gathering online – by Zoom church.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Rev Belinda Groves
Team Leader, Canberra Baptist Church