The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Every week as we gather for worship we say these words. Grace and love and fellowship, the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit: these three encompass our lives.
It is a good word to hear on this day, in the midst of “social isolation.” We are not alone. There is One who is with us, who made us to be with Him. We are not alone because we are never “only.” It is never, at any moment of my living, only me; it is always also the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit, grace and love and fellowship, these three.
And we ourselves are the sign of this. How do I know the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit are with me, this fellowship? How do I know I am not alone? I know it in you. I know it in the smiles that light your faces when we meet on a Sunday morning. I know it in your prayers when we are apart. I know it in the phone call from one of you to tell me another is in hospital, this care you have for each other.
This is the wonderful thing about the fellowship of the Holy Spirit: it becomes our fellowship too. This love of God in which we live is a gift given to us, so that we too can love.
And so in a very real way we are not alone, even in a time of social isolation.
Strange times, these are. And we are meeting these times in different ways.
My sister-in-law sent us a video: a man whose choir practice was canceled, so he sat down at his piano instead. As he sings you realize the top of his piano is covered with…toilet paper rolls. To the tune of “Eileen” he sings, “Don’t stockpile…stockpile the loo roll, don’t stockpile…”
All over the world there is, it seems, no toilet paper to be found.
My Mom and Dad, retired in Saskatoon, went innocently to Superstore last Friday to do their weekly shopping. They discovered mayhem…and no toilet paper. Also no flour. None at all, in any size at all. But in the (very long) checkout line the man next to them had in his cart eight – eight – 10 kg. bags of flour.
That is one way to meet this crisis.
But there is another way.
In Siena, in Sicily and in Rome a song is rising. From inside their homes, where they have been for many days now, people are singing to each other. Viva la nostra Siena – in the empty streets one night a whole chorus sounds. People gather on their balconies and somehow, with an accordian and some tambourines, from different buildings, together they strike up a dance tune. In Ireland a young woman prints up flyers with her phone number for elderly neighbours who need help with the shopping. Our daughter, working in the hospitals, got a call from her former chapel choir director just to say “thinking of you, on the front lines.” And in Florence a tenor sang Nessun Dorma from his balcony to his neighbours, his son in his arms.
Not to hoard but to give. To sing, even in the place of uncertainty and illness. To sing with and for each other.
This is the fellowship for which we are made. It is the fellowship in which we live, in the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is with us, and so it is never only me. It is you and I together, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, lifting up our hearts for each other, raising together a song.
Christ be with me, Christ within me…
Christ beneath me, Christ above me;
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger;
Christ in hearts of all who love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate