letter from lockdown

Perhaps you find yourself, as I do, confined to your home in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here in Spain, that means that we cannot leave our home except to buy groceries, to take the dog for a short walk, or to visit the pharmacy. In each case, we are only permitted to go out individually. Over a period of a few short weeks, we have experienced a radical shift in our normal ways of life. While this has provoked a lot of fear, throughout the people of God globally, we see faith rising as leaders speak of the steadfastness of God in the midst of uncertainty. Wherever we are in the world, in our own leadership roles and in our circles of influence, may we be those who similarly stoke the fires of faith in the One who is not surprised at the current state of the world, and who is always moving towards us in compassionate and redeeming love.

welcome to the adventure

In the past week, I heard Darlene Cunningham - co-founder of Youth With A Mission - explain decisions being made in response to the pandemic. She was speaking to hundreds of young people gathered in Kona, Hawaii as part of a 6 month discipleship training program: ‘Welcome to the adventure, we are all in this together!’ she said. In the same message she expressed the notion of embracing this season of containment as an unexpected sabbatical. I wonder at the positive tension between these two thoughts, adventure and sabbatical. In the world of Christian mission, we tend to think of adventure in terms of ‘getting out there,’ with all the energy of action and ‘going.’ This is who we are! Could it be that we are being invited to a different sort of adventure in the days ahead?

Many of us around the world are already confined to one degree or another. Surely all of us will find our ability to move between places severely restricted. What kind of an adventure could it be to stay home and settle into being the people of God within the smaller space of our family or very local community? Many of us will find some spaciousness in the cancellation of meetings and national or international travel. We may find that for the first time in a while we are able to maintain daily and weekly rhythms that create space for us to cultivate an awareness of God’s presence; we are not dipping in and out of rhythms because of commitments away from home. And as we commit to these practices of prayer and reflection, there will be an opportunity to experience our intimate connection with Father, Son and Holy Spirit in deeper and richer ways. That holds the promise of being quite the adventure, let’s lean in!

It will not have escaped your notice that during these days the global church is marking the period of Lent. We are moving together through this season of getting in touch with our very real need for salvation. In a normal year, we create all sorts of ways to enter into the rehearsal of the story. This year, it has been prepared for us! Who could not be unusually conscious of the groaning of creation, the great hope-filled longing that the created order would be ‘set free from its bondage to decay’ as Paul writes to the Roman church. Together with the whole world, we long for freedom from pain, loss and death.

A saying you may have heard of called Hendrickson’s Law says that ‘If you have enough meetings over a long enough period of time, the meetings become more important than the problems the meetings were intended to solve.’ Maybe that brings a wry smile to your face! In any case, even as our meetings move to online platforms, could there be an invitation in this pandemic to get in touch more deeply with the groaning of the world for redemption? And not only that, but also perhaps our own frustrations and fears, our sense of fragility, will drive us to more deeply inhabit the faith we profess.

an invitation & a hope

In the video Darlene rightly said, ‘We know that God is always greater and we will prove him great in new ways.’ We can be certain that God will be at work in all aspects of this global crisis, to bring about redemptive goodness. As you consider what this means for you and your family, your teams and projects, your communities and nations, may we all be assured that we are moving towards an ever deeper participation with Jesus, as he continues to work out his salvation among us. May this be both our prayer and our experience in the days ahead.