Tuesday, March 24, 2020


One of the earliest documents of the Church is Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Thessalonica. It concludes with a punchy list of advice in easy-to-memorise form, including:

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

(1 Thessalonians 5:16, 17, 18)

This could just as well be advice for time of lockdown.

When Paul writes, ‘pray without ceasing’, he does not mean 24/7, like an app running in the background, but, without interruption to the regular rhythm of corporate prayer that punctuates the day. So, for those who are part of a community of prayer who find themselves unable to meet together to pray at this time, Paul would say, don’t let the habit slide just because your circumstances have changed. Certainly, practices may have to adapt; but don’t neglect them. In fact, join in with such established rhythms.

This is also good advice, in time of lockdown, for the rhythm of our days, in relation to work, and eating, and exercise. Yes, lockdown means that certain things, many things, will look different now; we will need to work out new ways; but, seek to maintain structure, and especially corporate or communal structure. We will need to be flexible, but also to resist the temptation to throw everything up in the air and see where it lands.

If it is your habit to go for a run three times a week, go for a run — on your own now — three times a week. If it is your habit to meet up with friends on a certain night, do so via technology. As far as you are able, begin and walk away from work-from-home at the same hours you work outside of the home. Break for lunch when you usually break for lunch. (Caveat: children need more flexibility, but nonetheless still need familiar structure; and this will take time to figure out: we have time.)

Also, look for those moments that give you joy — and share that joy with others. What can we celebrate, together, albeit virtually and at a distance? (Paul, in Athens, was at a distance from his friends in Thessalonica and unable to return to them in person; so started letter-writing, the social media of his day. We don't know whether he was, especially, a letter-writer prior to this.)

And, look for things you can be thankful for. These might be different from those things that give us joy, though there will be overlap. Joy strengthens the heart; thankfulness is the gratitude of the heart, for which, at times, the heart needs strengthened.

Today, I rejoice at — celebrate — the gift of life; and am thankful for the roof over my head. I am also made more aware of my unconscious privilege, and, in prayer, bring my life before God for the service of my neighbours, and in recognition of my need of them.

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