Being with… the importance of presence

The power of being present has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

That solitary sentence has existed in isolation in a draft post for months. It’s still true, so I thought it was time to dust it off and hang out with it for a while.

What originally spurred it? I’m no longer certain. So many people live in isolation, even in an age of hyper-connectedness, that it may have been any number of situations. But today it seemed to fit my thinking about the ‘in between’ nature of Holy Saturday, upon which Christians consider the time between Jesus death and resurrection – the time during which he was no longer physically present. It’s a profound point when you believe in an omnipresent God. It can also turn into a theological rollercoaster ride, which isn’t my intent here today.

So much of caring is wrapped up in presence. Is it possible to display love and caring without presence of some sort? I’m not sure it is; I know it wasn’t intended to be. Babies die without touch. Adults go insane in extreme isolation. Communities deteriorate without presence. It’s the power of the humanity of Jesus – God came to be with humanity. It’s the power encapsulated in the proclamation of faith which shouts “be with” – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Between the “risen” and the “come again” Jesus is not gone. He is in. In his people. In his church, the body of Christ, BUT only as far as we are present for each other, for the isolated, for the young, for the old, for the community.

Last week, in the neighborhood to which I’ve been present in one way or another for 10 years, where my church is situated and the kids I’m called to serve live, there was a sadly ordinary act of street violence. Taken was a 17-year-old, one of the kids I knew as an elementary-aged kid, and a 21-year-old. Senseless death.

Yesterday, in keeping an ancient practice of re-enacting the steps Jesus took from his condemnation to his death, my church walked the streets of the community, passing by the street memorial for these young men. [See a news report of the community walk here.]  It was a poignant reminder of the need for the Church (not just ours, but all of it) to be with it’s community – to be community.  During the Stations, a man named David gave his life to Christ.  Tonight, David will be baptised during one of the most ancient known liturgies celebrated today, The Great Vigil of Easter. It is marked by a transition from darkness into light, from slavery and condemnation to freedom and salvation. It’s an amazing re-telling of the love story God has given in scripture. It tells us of his desire to be with us… about the importance of presence.

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