November 19, 2020
You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has
chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.
- Deuteronomy 14:2
In 313, Constantine, the Western Roman emperor issued the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity and allowed for freedom to Christians to worship throughout the empire. As more people came to join the faith, some felt a shift as persecution came to an end. Desiring to fully embody their abandoning themselves to Christ a few people set themselves apart from their community of faith by moving far out into the desert to become hermits. You might be asking yourself, why on earth would anyone choose to do such a thing. Who would want to be set apart?
This past week I had the honor of standing with Leah as she was ordained in full connection to the Order of Deacon in The United Methodist Church. Ordination is a culmination of preparation for ministry and also new beginning. A phrase that is often used in Scripture and when speaking of ordination is “set apart”. As the Bishop lays hands upon each person to be commissioned and ordained, all those present recognized that this person is to be set apart for the work of the Kingdom and the ministry of the church. As I participated in the service I was reminded of that call and the preparation to become the pastor I am today. I am humbled to be called to serve in such a way and am honored to serve as your pastor.
As I looked around the sanctuary at the service, the phrase ‘set apart’ was unshakable as people sat 6 feet apart with masks covering their nose and mouths. Since the pandemic began earlier this year it feels as though we have all been set apart from each other. We like the first zealous Christians have become hermits out in the wilderness. In the Bishop’s sermon she mentioned that we are physically distant, not really socially distant as we are wanting to say. We might be six feet apart or worshipping online, but we are still connected by the Spirit and still in community with one another.
While it was an admirable thing for those early Christians to devote themselves to a life of hermitage, it did not last long. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). They didn’t go back to the lives they had left, but they did come together and form the first monasteries. They remained set apart… together. From their work a new way to live became possible. There are still communities that live in such a way today.
Whether we are monks, or ministers, or simply folks masked during a pandemic, we hold a feeling of being apart. We may have sought that apartness, or have been called to it, or simply find ourselves in it. What we need to remember is that whatever the physical distance we may hold between others, we are not alone. In being set apart, we cleave a little closer to God.
This week, let us draw close to one another in prayer and remind each other we are not alone.
Grace and peace,