Like an early rain, the little clicks of incoming messages begin while I'm composing the day's eMo: "Thanks be to God!" "Thanks be to God!" Probably a hundred of them will come through in the course of the day, in response to the one I sent this morning after finishing Morning Prayer: "Let us bless the Lord!"
We began doing this a few weeks ago, rather on the spur of the moment, a group of folk who wanted help in getting around to a regular practice of prayer. We help each other: the mild nudge provided by my "Let us bless the Lord!" reminds my friends, if they haven't already prayed, to do so, and they pause for the few minutes it takes to commit the coming day to God. If they get there first, they remind me. It's no big deal, and it's not rocket science. Theological history is not being written in these brief exchanges.
But its effect is surprisingly powerful. I can't tell you how helpful this is to me, someone writes. It feels so good to see the greeting, and to send it. As if we're praying together. And we are. Together. Just not in the same location.
Upon me, the effect of the steady little rain of messages is profound. The screen names have become dear to me: there he is, and there she is, and there she is, all getting ready for work, making the coffee. It is like hearing the voices of the children stirring upstairs on a school day, knowing that they are all there, all accounted for. All right. At least the beginning of the day is safe.
People who live together help each other live. We depend on each other, a dependence not always related to the performance of tasks. Even people at some distance from each other need each other: none of my morning prayer buddies needs me to make them breakfast or iron them a a shirt. But we are moved by the sight of one another's' names on the screen. We have not been praying alone. We have been accompanied, all this time. We live together. Even those of us who live alone.
The Canticle of the Three Young Men is the longest of the canticles appointed for Morning Prayer. It's the song of praise to God sung by Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego when the king had them cast into a fiery furnace: they sang all night and, in the morning were found miraculously unsinged. The song they sang is a long list of all the inhabitants of the universe, organic and inorganic alike, all invited to praise God: first the celestial beings and celestial bodies, like angels and the sun; then the weather, then the night and the day. Mountains and hills, animals and birds, fish, cattle, men and women, everybody. Everybody living should praise God. Then the Church people should praise God. Then those who have died.
How lovely a thing it is to think of all of creation alive, somehow, alive and happy and looking toward our creator. Cozy, in a funny way, as if we were all at home together. Everyone in this ancient song is together. All together and safe.
In its whirrs and clicks, the computer helps us feel this kinship. We can't see the folk whose screen names come to us, but we are together with them nonetheless. And what is true of them is actually true of absolutely everybody and everything. Profoundly related, we are. All of us. Whether we know it or not.
But what a fine thing it is to know it. Let us bless the Lord!