Our bearded dragon, Thor, has gone into brumation. This is hibernation for reptiles basically. She goes to sleep in her tank when it starts to get cold and stays asleep until it warms up again. It doesn’t matter if we keep the heat lamp on or if the central heating is going, she still goes to sleep as the summer ends and wakes up as spring arrives. She just seems to know.
Thor is now 7½ years old and she is quite majestic, when awake. When we put her on our shoulders she walks all over our bodies clinging on to our clothes or hair with her claws. She bombs along the floor down the hallway, loves a bath and will sit and watch TV sitting on someone’s chest. But that’s while she’s awake. At the moment, she’s sleeping and quite frankly, rather boring.
Some of us may feel just like Thor at the moment. We want to close our eyes and wake up when this is all over and the sun is shining again. We want to hunker down in our nests, get out the crafts, get into the garden, read a good book. Some of us may not want to watch or read the news as it’s all too depressing. Some of us may just want to snuggle into layers of lovely quilts, hug a hot water bottle and ignore the world. The trouble is that option was never on offer when Jesus went travelling around the country teaching, preaching and healing people.
We’ve just celebrated Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came rushing into a room where the disciples were hunkered down and drove them out into the crowds of Jerusalem. It’s probably a bit unfair to say she grabbed the quilts and hot water bottle and pushed them out of bed, but it’s a good image. What is the Holy Spirit doing now at this time?
At the time I write this, and acknowledging the situation is constantly changing, restrictions are easing and the numbers who can gather are increasing. But we are still being told if you can stay at home, you should stay at home. The Holy Spirit is not driving us out anywhere but rather shutting the front door, grabbing the quilt and tucking us in. This is not a usual response, but these are not usual times.
Whilst the Spirit is shutting the door, she is also grabbing the phone and the church directory and suggesting we phone people we haven’t seen for a while at church. She’s helping to make prayer mats, record the services of worship, write prayers for mailouts to those without internet. She’s helping us to think differently about Playgroup and Grumpies, how to do mission and connect with the community safely, how to support those who are struggling as the community support structures are not meeting the need.
We may not be able to physically rush out into the crowd inspired by God’s Spirit and following the way of Jesus. We may need to remain at home for some time to come. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t moving amongst us and isn’t present, it just means we have to do things differently for a little longer. Our priority is to keep people safe. To do so, we may appear to be like my bearded dragon Thor bedded down in her home and staying shut away from the outside world. But unlike Thor, we are not asleep. We are very much awake caring for each other and the wider community, worshipping God and continuing to fight against the injustices that continue to be perpetrated.
Our doors may be shut and our buildings closed up, but our church is very much open through prayer, connection and acts of kindness, all undertaken in the name of the God of love and grace. Don’t go out, stay safe but stay connected, and remember our verse from Isaiah 41:10:
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.