One of my all-time favorite passages is where Jesus talks about the importance of staying connected to Him, in John 15, with only a few of those powerful verses here:
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers… “
Though it is one of my favorites, it’s a really difficult one these days, when our physically connecting with one another is so important to our “abiding” in Him– seeing Christ in each others’ eyes, feeling His presence in a holy touch. Yet now we can’t. So how can we abide in Him under these circumstances?
Through much of the history of the church, we have the model of the spiritual powerhouses who were hermits—living often for many years in all but complete isolation. On such monastery we saw while in the Holy Land was literally on the side of a mountain, where people outside the monastery provided for the few hermits’ need there with baskets on a rope. At least we’re not in as isolated a situation as that! Yet many of those were mystics whose spiritual insights still move us many centuries later.
Their idea was to try to remove distractions in order to focus on and abide in Christ. Yet even in our isolation with this virus, we would tend to prefer to fill our lives with distractions instead. No wonder it can be difficult to abide in Jesus, when it’s too easy to abide in the TV or other distractions.
Perhaps these coming weeks can be an opportunity to re-discover quiet times with God, a bit of time in the morning or evening to read and meditate on scripture or other spiritual tools, or to re-learn the art of writing—either in a spiritual journal, or as a way to reach out to others in safe ways. So as some of us are working on being creative in how to cultivate worship from a distance, I would encourage all of us to also be creative in how we find ways to abide in Jesus, even in this pseudo-hermit phase of life.
Keep being a blessing—Pastor Jim