15 Apr 2020 • From Bishop Richard Jackson
Parish Magazine article, May 2020
A few years ago a major credit card coined the slogan, “Taking the waiting out of wanting.” Since then the ready availability of credit has fostered a society that is more and more impatient. We are all very busy (or certainly were before Coronavirus struck) and the lure of shortcuts in every area of life is very strong.
But Christian discipleship is not like that. Jesus told the disciples that after his ascension they should wait until the Holy Spirit came. Wait; do nothing; simply be; hardly ideas that have a contemporary resonance. Although, again, Coronavirus might have given us some more experience of this. Similarly, St. Paul, when he was looking for metaphors for Christian growth used agricultural ones: fruit slowly maturing, something that comes in its time after a long gestation.
If we are to grow as Christians there is no substitute for the well-travelled paths of prayer, study, worship, silence and self-discipline. The gift of the Holy Spirit, whose coming we celebrate at the end of May, sometimes brings with him wonderful, vivid spiritual experiences. However, they are only meant to be signposts to deeper engagement. The gentle rhythm of weekly worship is not something God asks us to do because he has self-esteem issues and needs us to say nice things about him. It is for our benefit. In a world that screams at us from Monday – Saturday, “the world revolves around you”, worship is a necessary re-calibration. As we meet the Lord in word, sacrament and community our minds are refocussed. Our virtual meetings have their strengths, but I am certainly pining for face to face contact, particularly meeting around the Lord’s table.
Just as most of our meals are unremarkable, so these simple acts of worship may not be memorable of themselves. However, you will soon notice if you stop eating! I hope that our temporary fasting from worship will have created a hunger in us to value it more deeply when we are able to meet again. Christian maturity grows slowly with these disciplines instituted by God in his goodness. It is by being nourished by these things that we show the fruits of the Spirit.