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Being together when we’re not

Here we go again, in England at least. On All Saints Sunday we confront the long-awaited second lockdown – which will be all the longer for having been delayed until the last possible moment. Again we will be told to stay at home unless we absolutely have to leave.

On this day of all days, when Christians celebrate our unity with the church of God in time, space and eternity, we are preparing again for even greater physical separation. Many of us are already suffering from the lack of community, the lack of intimacy, the lack of touch. This is going to be hard for all of us.

Against that foreground, the celebration of All Saints might disappear entirely from our heart and minds. What currency does John’s vision have in the book of Revelation?

“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”

There is a truth not to lose hold of here, but how to make it real? it’s precisely not about each of us individually trying to feel better because we know we should. It’s about us being a community, even when we are separated and physically isolated.

We can only get through this by doing all we can to bridge the gaps that coronavirus restrictions place between us. We remain one body – and part of Christian witness is to say and show that the whole body of humanity is included in God’s love, not only those who call themselves Christians. Be bridge builders, if you can. Try to allow others to build bridges to you, even if you feel you just want to hide from everyone. Remain connected, not just through websites or the TV, but personally, individually, relationally.

All Souls Day, November 2nd complements the rejoicing of All Saints Day with the sombre remembrance of loss, and prayer that “that, in the last day, when you gather up all things in Christ, we may with all the faithful departed enjoy the fullness of your promises”. In this season of anxiety we need both – the recognition of our present need, and the hope that allows us to look beyond it.

But this I call to mind,
   and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
   ‘therefore I will hope in him.’

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
   to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
   for the salvation of the Lord.
For the Lord will not
   reject for ever.
Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
   or grieve anyone.

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