Look through the crack in your wardrobe
Going to church on Easter Sunday seemed strange, even slightly awkward. Apart from some funerals I’ve conducted, I haven’t been to a regular church service, certainly with Jacqui, for over a year – even when it was possible. But now we’ve been vaccinated, we decided to make it for this celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. But it wasn’t the same. No hymns (although some kind-of murmured through their masks), socially distanced at all times, no Peace as we know it and no wine. However, the big surprise for me was the sheer inconvenience of having to move my body some five miles to St Mark’s. In other words I have grown accustomed to Zoom, even psychologically dependent on this videotelephonic technology. It helps that our vicar has now mastered both the art and know-how for this medium necessitated by the pandemic. And rather than sit in front of my computer screen (like most of the members of Handsforth Parish Council), I prefer to use my Galaxy S9 mobile on a special stand. It means I can sit where I like and enjoy the view of the rewilding field behind our house, while still ‘being in church.’ I enjoy the music uploaded in advance from YouTube, both for its variety and quality. For the record, Jacqui sings while I prefer to listen. And for me, at my advanced age, it is a positive bonus to see people’s names below their image – although it took me a while to realise that Peter and Jennie are not Mr and Mrs Windows. Breakout rooms are great too. You are grouped, I presume randomly, with those who wish to linger.. None of this chatting with your friends after the service has finished after just a cursory nod to any newcomer. There is a technique, of course, an etiquette of using Zoom – which we are gradually mastering. When it comes to preaching I’ve learnt to look steadily and unblinkingly into the camera lens. Also style and length has to be adapted. Everything has to be shorter and more focussed, always a good discipline. And it seems that Zoom is involving more people. Certainly for our service of morning prayer each Monday; the entire congregation is involved – everyone does something. (Incidentally, if you are using Zoom on your mobile, you simply swipe to see everyone). However, what I find best of all for Zoom-enabled worship is that I don’t have to move my body anywhere. Each Sunday at about 10.50 we stop what we are doing so that I can set up my phone and stand, get a cup of coffee and sit in our settee facing the field. That’s it, whatever the weather. And I can sit in just my shorts, unshowered, if I have just returned from my run. So this Sunday it seemed strange to leave our house at 10.30 am. climb into our car, drive and then park the vehicle before walking into the building. As it happens it wasn’t raining and being Sunday, the traffic was light. That’s one of the drawbacks with this present universe - if you want to go anywhere, you have to move your body. It can be enjoyable, of course, especially if you go by train. But on balance, an inconvenience – something, of course, office commuters have realised in a big way over this last year. Also who enjoys long-haul? C S Lewis often wrote about glimpses into another, better world. You catch a fleeing glance into a different reality, one for which we inexplicably long for. So in "Surprised by Joy," he introduces us to sehnsucht, a yearning for something that slips away just as we would grasp it, an experience that would point us beyond this world to something more wonderful, more complete, even to a creation “where sorrow and sighing would flee away.” (Isaiah 55:11) This austere academic invites us in his Narnian chronicles to step through the wardrobe into this new world, an experience of "bliss, loss and longing all at once, a desire beyond words." In another word, Joy – hence the title of his autobiography. And we need to be alert to manifestations of sehnsucht, usually peripheral and unexpected. Like my unexpected frustration on Easter Day of the limitations of having a physical body version 1.0. For the risen Jesus has no such restriction, the very opposite. The Gospel writers don’t enlarge on this, apart from John’s observation that locked doors did not inhibit Jesus’ movement. Neither did he have to trudge the 70 miles from the Upper Room to the Sea of Galilee. He moves effortlessly to be with his disciples. Even so the evangelists are at pains to point out that Jesus still had a physical body – to be touched as well as seen. “Touch me and see,” he tells the startled disciples, “a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24:37) And he still eats, hence his question: “Do you have anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41) So Jesus does have a body, even a physical body– but not, Jim, as we know it. But what is breath-taking is that we are seeing our own future in Christ. As the apostle Paul rejoices: “We eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20f) Of course, we are not there yet – although now and again, you do hear of this strange phenomenon, such as when “the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again” (Acts 8:39). So next time you half-experience some strange frustration, some inexplicable longing, just pause – and try to peer through the crack in your wardrobe.