’till at last we all are gathered’
Another week of lockdown – how are you doing? No doubt you have learned some new things this week and had some new experiences… chairing the Methodist Council from my dining room via Zoom for 6 hours on Monday was certainly a learning curve for me, but everyone was patient and it went remarkably well (if draining!) So today, Palm Sunday, we begin a Holy Week which will be very different from any we have known before.
Set against the laughs, however, are the tears. During the past week I have learned of 4 people I knew personally who have died from the virus, and each of us know those who are suffering or ill. We are not just facing an organisational challenge, but a human catastrophe; even more so in developing countries. I have been glad to join with All We Can in their daily #holdtogether moments at 1:17 in the afternoon.
Along with many others, I had expected to be at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick this weekend for the Methodist Women in Britain residential weekend. I mentioned in my previous blog that the theme for the weekend was to have been ‘Travelling in Hope’ and that I had offered to share some thoughts on that theme with the would-be participants…
As I reflected on the theme of Hope for a context of Covid-19 and also for Palm Sunday I put together a few ideas for people to use at different points in the weekend. If you would like to read them in full you can download the document: Travelling in Hope – some thoughts they include puffins, poetry and Pixar (with a clip from ‘Frozen 2’). Additional song and poem words here: Travelling in hope – some resources
For this morning’s thoughts I suggested the hymn ‘All for Jesus, all for Jesus’ (Singing the Faith 341 – not 342 as my notes said!) I had chosen this primarily because it mentions ‘hope’ – ‘For we have no hope nor Saviour if we have not hope in thee’. However, as I sang it by myself this morning I was so struck by the final verse; ‘All for Jesus – all for Jesus, this the church’s song must be; till, at last, we all are gathered one in love and one in thee.’ As I sang those words I longed for the time to come when we will again be able to join with one another to worship.
Over the past few weeks we have begun to get used to not being gathered, but being isolated. Although technology can be brilliant in connecting us for worship, conversation and entertainment (thank you National Theatre for live-screened theatre every Thursday) we know that it is not the same. The gulf between what we are experiencing now and real community is huge.
Of course the hymn-writer did not know about our current situation when he wrote the hymn. Reflecting on that led me to wonder if perhaps, in some strange way, this time of separation is showing us something of the gulf between the way we do normally go about our lives, and the quality of life which we will one day share in that ultimate gathering which we think of as ‘heaven’… ‘Now’, as Paul says in 1 Corinthains 13:12, ‘we see in a mirror dimly, then we will see face to face’.
So there is always more; but as with any journey, we only arrive at the destination if we keep on putting one foot in front of the other. As we do that this Palm Sunday and this week, may we all know the blessing of the God who walks alongside us (whilst also preparing the most amazing party for when it is all over)! Jill