This morning I drove to the church building. I've been here throughout but usually with very specific tasks - recording music, printing bulletins & sermons, making sure the facility was ok following storms. Since COVID-19 began to spread in Texas I have not been in my office for what I would call a regular day. I woke-up without my alarm and was ready to go. It both felt like a regular day pre-March and extraordinary day. I looked at the sites on my regular drive and listened. I was quiet. I was reflective. Not necessarily unusual but it felt different. I parked in my usual spot and came into the office. There was something nice about sitting in the quiet at my desk, looking out my window, when the words, "and are we yet alive." If that phrase doesn't ring any bells for you - that's ok. These are the first words in a hymn by the same name by Charles Wesley. I may have sung it at my home church but for me it's a Conference thing.
And are we yet alive,
and see each other's face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give
for his almighty grace!
Preserved by power divine
to full salvation here,
again in Jesus' praise we join,
and in his sight appear.
What troubles have we seen,
what mighty conflicts past,
fightings without, and fears within,
since we assembled last!
Yet out of all the Lord
hath brought us by his love;
and still he doth his help afford,
and hides our life above.
Then let us make our boast
of his redeeming power,
which saves us to the uttermost,
till we can sin no more.
Let us take up the cross
till we the crown obtain,
and gladly reckon all things loss
so we may Jesus gain.
Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Music: Johann G. Nageli; arr. by Lowell Mason
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) first wrote this hymn for his 1749 collection, Hymns and Sacred Poems. John Wesley included it in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodist(1780) at the beginning of the section titled, "For the Society... at meeting." Sometime around its appearance in the 1780 collection, Wesley began using this hymn at the opening of annual society meetings, a practice that has remained largely in use since. Every year around the world, Methodists gathered together in "holy conference" stand and sing the nostalgic strains of Wesley's text, recalling the journey of the last 12 months. (You can read more here. https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-and-are-we-yet-alive)
With Annual Conferences not meeting in person until later in the summer and our church family worshipping at home this is an usual time. Add to this the protests calling our attention, not just to racial injustice but the need to make changes now and the longing to gather grows. To be with other Christians to remind ourselves who we are and whose we are. I've been having a silent conversation in my head about maybe we do need to meet in person - to see each other's face - maybe it's not as bad except the number of cases continue to rise in our area. And I am reminded again that our actions speak louder than our words - when this over we want to celebrate - perhaps by singing, And are we yet alive. I wish I had a real Magic 8 ball - one that would allow me to know for certain about the best course of action in all things.
As I sit listening to the AC and the trucks passing on FM 365 two prayers catch my eye, one a handwritten prayer the other the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer. I failed to write where I got it from (guessing Common Prayer):
Lord, thank you for using the foolish to confound the wise & the weak ones to shame the strong. Help us live with the shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves. Keep our feet from fatigue, our spirits from despair and our hands from failing to rise in praise to you. Amen.
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wile,
rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee
or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thing. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
I am reminded that Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow. John Wesley reminds us that it is not about us but the one who claims us. The science and advice of medical professionals has not changed, even if the world around us has. My prayer today is that we can remember that it is not about us, but the one who sent us. It is about honoring God by loving God completely and our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.