(Read John :10-10 and Acts 2:42-47)
In the days long before Sat Nav, smart phones and the like on the long car journey from Cumbria to East Anglia, Dad decided to take a short cut in the back roads of East Anglia. Suffice to say the short cut took us a lot longer and when you’re cramped in the back seat with two older brothers, Dad was not very popular at that point. Of course, it wasn’t the first or last time such a thing happened!
As Jesus points out in the gospel there isn’t a short cut to the sheepfold – a point exemplified by Jesus as he travels the cross before experiencing resurrection. We can’t just jump over the wall as indeed we can’t suddenly find a short cut out of the present situation. The Apostles in the early church took this advice to heart summed up in the phrase, ‘Day by Day’.
It feels like Day by day is about the only thing we can do at the moment and maybe some days we are not even sure if its yesterday, today or tomorrow. Certainly, I am learning patience, seeking to focus on the risen Christ but it’s not always easy.
But the early church gives us some good advice. There was a lot of fear around about what might come next (remember Jesus hap appeared in a locked room – locked because of the disciples’ fear). The Romans had crucified Jesus. The future of the early Christians was very uncertain. So what do they do?
Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
This is not bad advice for the lockdown. Seeking out teaching (Bibles) and fellowship (giving someone a ring or ‘Zooming/Skyping/FaceTiming’). Breaking bread – taking time to eat, remembering those around us in the world, giving thanks for all those who still make it possible for us to have food on our tables and maybe recognizing something of the risen Christ in this, and praying. This is a good time for prayer – there is no need to rush, no need to present a list but trying to find time to place ourselves in the presence of God. There is no shortcut to this and sometimes it comes easier than others, simply listening for the voice of the Shepherd.
The suggested Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 23 – perhaps the most well-known Psalm to all of us. A Psalm that reminds us there is no shortcut but that God is faithful and walks with us even in the most difficult places – in the challenges of the shadows and uncertainty. Christ bears testament that such situations do not have the last word. There is hope and life and love. The early Christians found a way, we too will find a way and the time will come when we can gather physically together again. In the meantime let us holdfast, not seeking shortcuts but spending time as the first followers did.
If you read the passages at the start, you’ve already done some Bible reading, by reading this you have spent time in the company of others in the churches and maybe Psalm 23 can lead you into a time of prayer. And then look, you are already following the example of the early Christians!
Keep on keeping on, and may the peace of the risen Christ reign in your hearts.
With love, Nick