Hold Fast, Stand Firm!

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes, Communications, Coronavirus

Dear saints in Austin, brothers and sisters in Christ,

That is how St. Paul addresses the Jesus followers in Colossae, an apt description of you and me. Last Sunday we began our summer preaching series through this powerful New Testament letter, a word from Paul the pastor, to one of the flocks he oversaw in the region. His letters, including this one, were born of a pastoral heart for the Spirit-filled health of these new communities. I can’t for a moment be compared with St. Paul, but I do have a similar heart for you saints, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I am concerned for your physical health, especially the most vulnerable among us. As each day sets a new record for Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Austin/Texas, please be cautious about your outings, keep social distancing, wash hands, and wear masks in public/shared spaces. As I listen to our Health Team, I am sobered by the surge in suffering.

I am concerned for your mental health. There is not a simple or single solution for safeguarding mental health, but the following go a long way: please (1) prioritize time with the Lord, in prayer and in His Word (2) stay connected to other people, sharing your burdens, seek support and spiritual friendships and mentors, even though we are all weary of Zoom . . . press on! (3) take care of your body, with daily attention to eating well, sleeping well, and physical activity; (4) embrace a “less is more” strategy when it comes to consumption of “enough” news and social media feeds; (5) pursue beauty and creation attentiveness.

I am concerned for your spiritual health. This relates to the previous two, because our “self” is an integrated interconnection of body/soul/mind, but it’s worth singling out. Our help is in the name of the Lord; turn your gaze upwards, with hearts tuned to the melody of our great God, with hopes set upon the one who makes all things new. Are there doubts or vices that pull your affections away from God? Tackle them directly in humility and honesty. Seek help. Don’t let them quietly assert priority. Create space and time to simply BE in God’s presence, exploring old and new spiritual practices and disciplines.

I am concerned that we maintain the connective tissue that binds the body together. We are meant for embodied presence to each other, face to face encounter. These months in which we are not able gather as small groups, laugh in the courtyard, hold each other’s babies, worship with full-throated corporate adoration of our Savior, or share one bread and one cup in Holy Eucharist — these conditions could challenge our extraordinary Christ Church community and close-knitted hearts. Our declaration “No One Stands Alone” is not a marketing slogan; it’s a genuine statement of one of our greatest aspirations and, by God’s grace, attributes. If you are not actively and experientially connecting with others, joining a small group, prayer, Bible study, enter somehow. Now is the time.

These conditions are the worst possible circumstances in which to navigate difficulties and differences, yet what’s going on in our world and homes are as challenging (or more) as ever. Scripture supplies us with great language for such a time as this: hold fast and stand firm.

Actively remember that we participate in a different story, with a different outcome, than that of the world. The letter to the Hebrews tells us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful,” and in the letter to the Philippians St. Paul longs to “hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

My prayer this summer is that we would hold fast and stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Choose trust.

One concrete way to stay connected to God and each other is by sharing sacred time together in our live streamed Sunday services. We continue in common prayer, and in God’s Word (Colossians 1:9-14) this Sunday. Join us!

With hope in the risen Lord,