SERMON: The Scattered Flock

A Sermon preached on 18th July by David Patrick

The Scattered Flock

So, our last Zoom online church service!

Today I would like us to reflect upon the reality that we’ve spent a lot of time apart from each other, during which we’ve learnt to do many things differently.

And now that we’re looking forwards to be getting back together and see each other again in person from next week onwards – what can we learn from today’s Old & New Testament readings which could guide us?

We’ve spent a lot of time apart from each other as a church community

We heard from the reading from Jeremiah today of the scattered flock – the scattering of the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord.

Could we think of ourselves as a bit like the scattered flock – scattered from our usual routines by a brutal pandemic which changed our lives surely more than we could ever have imagined in our wildest dreams? It was an involuntary scattering – like in Jeremiah, the scattering wasn’t of our own choosing.

Have we experienced being in a solitary place, which we heard described by Mark in today’s New Testament reading? The feeling of being on our own, the isolation.

Perhaps we learnt more about what it means to be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”, as it is described in the Psalm?

However, we’ve learnt how to do some things differently – by ourselves individually, and together as a church community

We’ve been holding our church services on Zoom for over a year now – obviously very different to meeting each other in person each week in our beautiful church building. Sometimes church services on Zoom may have felt a bit like watching TV,  perhaps viewed from a comfortable chair with a mug of coffee in hand. But we kept on going! Albeit on a screen, we saw the friendly smiles, the cheerful waves. Sometimes we found ourselves interacting online with people who we didn’t know so well before.

Did you appreciate seeing the ministry team’s faces and their expressions filling your screen, so close up but yet so far away?

Did you get to know some people in new and different ways? Maybe you’ve seen right into their rooms at home where they live. Perhaps you’ve seen some old friends who’ve moved abroad?

Some of us got to talk more than we would usually do in the setting of a traditional church service – we experienced the delights of talking in Zoom breakout rooms!  

Some of us had a go at posting a cheerful comment into the chat line on Zoom for everyone to see.

So, perhaps we could think that whilst the pandemic scattered us apart from each other, we learnt new ways to interact as a church community using modern technology.

But we’ve been physically separated from each other for a long time – too long. Surely it was challenging for many of us to cope with the isolation that we experienced, separated from our families and friends.   

So, now that we’re going to be getting back together and see each other again – what will the ‘new normal’ feel like for us?

From the Psalm we hear that “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”.

Indeed, from next week onwards will be back together in the house of the Lord.

We will be seeing our friends again, our church community.

We have learnt to do some things differently. Could we build on what we learnt?

So, when you see each other again in person in church from next week onwards…

Could we continue with those friendly smiles, the cheerful waves, the kind comments? Surely we could!

Could we build upon those interactions with people who we didn’t know too well before? Maybe it could easier to strike up a conversation with someone, now you’ve been seeing them in their living rooms on Zoom for a year. Perhaps you even now know what’s on their bookshelves, what pictures are hanging on their walls.

Could we appreciate a moment of quiet and stillness, the silence. From Mark’s gospel we heard that Jesus said “Come by me yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest”. And from the Psalm, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

So, as we come to the end of our online services and look forward to meeting in person again, let’s embrace what for us will be ‘the new normal’

Some things will surely get back to exactly how they were before, but some things have changed for us, as we have learnt to live our lives completely differently. It has been a very challenging time. But surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives ; and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

We will return to the familiar rhythm of coming together each week and being sent out into the world at the end of each service with the phrase “Go in peace to love and serve the lord”.  Scattered out into the world each week – but voluntarily!