Everyone responds differently to being in lockdown. For some it is a painful and depressing time of separation; anxieties bubble to the surface only to sink down again and reappear when least expected, a bit like a 1960s larva lamp. But for others, these weeks of self isolation are an opportunity to think and read, a time of peace and quiet in a hectic world. Whichever of these you identify with let us pray for those who are reacting differently to ourselves and try to understand and sympathise.
In Ephesians 5 v 19 we are commanded to: Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Isn’t singing together one of the things we miss most in not being able to get together in church? Hymns instruct us as well as enable us to praise God. Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818 – 1895, was the wife of a Church of Ireland vicar who later became Archbishop of Armagh and then Primate of all Ireland. She listened to the songs children were singing and became very concerned. The songs she heard didn’t have any real solid teaching from the Bible. They almost seemed like entertainment. She decided to write some hymns that would really help the children to understand great Christian truths. She thought about the Apostles’ Creed as it summarised what all Christians believe. She began with the first line:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
She sat down and wrote, All things bright and beautiful…the Lord God made them all. She wanted children to know the rich variety of God’s creating power and to appreciate all that we have from his powerful creating hand. She moved on to the Lord Jesus Christ and was aware of the importance of the statement:
I believe in Jesus Christ his only son, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
She wrote, Once in Royal David’s city, in which she describes so clearly the birth of Jesus but affirms that, even though he became a real baby with a human mother, he remains God, He came down to earth from heaven/ Who is God and Lord of all. She then takes time in the hymn to tell children that the childhood of Jesus is our pattern for living an obedient life. She finishes by referring to another line in the Apostles’ Creed as she explains what it means that, He ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. Read it for yourself in the last two verses of the carol.
There is a third hymn by Mrs Alexander that we all know; There is a green hill far away. This is another explanation of Christian doctrine. This time the lines in the Apostle’s Creed are
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried
We are all grateful that this godly woman was able to explain such deep truths in so simple a way. It does make you think about what we sing, doesn’t it?
1. Although we would all like to get back to church and resume our worship and fellowship meetings, it looks like that is not going to happen for some time. The UK government, including the devolved government of Wales, are due to review the lockdown on May 7th. We ought not to get too excited about this as any lifting of the restrictions will be gradual and gatherings of all faiths are likely to be low down on the list for restarting because of the risk of large groups of people and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing. So let’s be patient and submit not only to the government but more importantly, to the Lord who has brought us into this situation. Pray that we will learn the lessons he is teaching us, and that he will be glorified through it all.
2. The Falconer Home in Zambia is suffering due to the Covid 19 crisis. Staff are unable to travel into the larger towns to buy food and are having to source supplies locally which are more expensive. More information at www.thefalconertrust.org and on their Facebook page.
3. Just a reminder to you all that the Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into force last year still apply to us in lockdown. That is why I don’t share any personal email addresses. Because many of us want to keep in touch by phone, you may be asked to pass on phone numbers to one another. This contravenes the regulations unless you have the permission of the person whose number you are passing on. It is better to say that you will, with the caller’s permission, pass on their number to the other party and ask them to phone if they wish to. That way you have not passed on confidential information.
4. The same applies to information shared for prayer. We produce two different Briefings each week. One which is sent by email and post to those who attend the church regularly, and an online version which appears in this “News” section of our website. The main difference is that I remove personal names and personal information from the online version as those outside our congregation are able to access that if they wish. Whilst we are all probably happy for members of the congregation to know our needs, we probably wouldn’t want those who never, or no longer, attend to know them. It is church “family business” after all!
Brief Prayer Requests
1. A few days ago the Muslim month of Ramadan began. Devout Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset every day and spend the time in meditation. They think it will purify their bodies. The Lord has sometimes used this time to reveal himself to them as the only God and Saviour. Pray that Muslims will be brought to faith in Jesus.
2. All of the missions we support are facing logistical and financial strain at the moment. Pray for Asia Link, Slavic Gospel Association and Romanian Ministries as they have to adapt to the new regime. Also continue to pray for UCCF as they continue to support Christian Students, and European Mission Fellowship.
3. Please continue to pray for our brother who is in Nigeria. More flights are being organised by the Foreign Office but he has to get to the airport in Lagos, which means a very difficult long trip by road. Pray that he and others will be able to get a flight soon.
4. Pray for all the children associated with the church and Sandfields Primary School, with whom we have a close relationship. The children are missing their friends and finding the lockdown difficult to cope with.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday until Friday of next week. On Wednesday 6th we will be one third of the way through Psalms.
Wed 29th Psalm 40,41 Thursday 30th Psalm 42,43
Friday 1st May Psalm 44 Saturday 2nd Psalm 45
Sunday 3rd Psalm 46,47 Monday 4th Psalm 48
Tuesday 5th Psalm 49 Wed 6th Psalm 50
Thursday 7th Psalm 51 Friday 8th Psalm 52,53,54
Warmly yours in the Lord
Your Pastor Jeremy 27th April 2020