Last week I did something I had never done before: I went on a sibling vacation. My older brother, Henry, younger sister, Pam, and I went to the beach together for a few days. We laughed, reminisced, recalled old stories, shed a few tears, and just enjoyed each other's company for a longer stretch of time than we had allowed ourselves in years. We played card games and board games and were defeated by a 500-piece "puzzle torture", as Pam called it.
Pam brought a laminator, and Henry brought some old hand-written letters we wanted to preserve. One was written by our dad to our mom during the hard days of World War II. They were in the first years of marriage when Dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy because it was what he knew he should do. He served on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater, and I was moved to tears to read the letter he sent our mother on their wedding anniversary. It was one of the most heartfelt, beautifully-moving letters I have ever read. It broke his heart to have to be away, but he knew he was serving a greater good that was worth his personal sacrifice.
I feel the same emotion when I read the apostle Paul's letter to the Colossians. It was a church he started, but at the time of his writing, Paul was in prison in Rome. His fondest hope was to see his friends in the young church at Colossae, but at the time, that was not possible. Instead, he wrote, "Though I am absent from you in the body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is" (Colossians 2:5).
Many of us may feel that way today. We yearn to be together in the chapel, joined together in worship the way we always did. However, right now we subjugate that desire for the sake of a greater good that is worth our personal sacrifice: to keep our church family, especially the most vulnerable among us, safe until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. We may not be in prison or called to serve overseas, but in our world today, it is still a sacrifice.
The day will come when we will all breathe a sigh of relief and agree that it was worth it. Until then, we can join the apostle Paul in saying, "For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is."
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas