Who would have thought that a highlight of our day would be the clanging of the letterbox and the enticing thump of letters landing on the door mat? Keeping in touch with one another has never been more important. Postal workers are certainly key workers. But last week I received an extra delivery. Whilst keeping social distance and not travelling more than five miles, Andrew crossed the road and put a “Vision” magazine through my door. It was the latest edition of the magazine produced by the European Mission Fellowship. This edition is focussed on gospel work in Greece and I have drawn heavily on it for this week’s briefing.
Brief Devotional: Live the Gospel
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46 v 10
Stefano Mariotti and his wife Jennifer are missionaries in Budrio, Italy where he is pastor of the La Piazza church. He wrote an article on 12 March when Italy was at the beginning of the worst Coronavirus outbreak in Europe. Back then, Italy, like the UK now, was a protected area. You could not travel freely, gather in public or in private, or even outdoors. Stefano asked the question, “As a church, how can we live the gospel in practice in these days?” He suggested five answers. I will give three today and leave the other two until next week.
1. A moment to be still. Some must stay at home because they are quarantined or fall into risk categories. For others their school or workplace is closed and they have to work from home or are learning remotely. How can we live the gospel when we can’t do anything or see anyone? Well, we can encourage one another to embrace this involuntary moment to be still (Psalm 46 v 10). God can still use this time to spur us to recognise that he is the God who is and remains in control, to devote more time to reading his word, to prayer and to personal and family spiritual growth, in the certainty that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, God will be exalted among the nations and will be exalted in the earth.
2. The necessity to intercede. For other people this lockdown takes on diametrically opposite aspects. There are those who have to go to work anxiously facing the moments of coexistence in the workplace or on the means of transport, while they have small children or elderly family members at home for whom they must find care while they are out. There are many involved in the huge organisation and health operation that is managing this crisis situation. We do not fail to bow our knees to our Father, asking that he renews strength, raises the tired, gives hope to the exhausted and the peace that only he can give to those who spend themselves in caring for and saving lives.
3. An occasion to honour. In Western culture there is an innate sense of distrust and criticism towards those who govern and those who administer, which is even more evident in times of crisis and difficult and unpopular choices. What a counter cultural opportunity to live the Gospel of Christ which calls us to be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people…living as servants of God. Honour everyone. 1 Peter 2 v 13 – 17. How can we honour the authorities during this pandemic? Surely by obeying the decrees of the Prime Minister and First Minister, waiting outside shops when there are already some people inside, washing our hands and paying attention to the needs and health of our neighbours. But also by avoiding criticising, especially on social media, the choices or actions of the government ot the opposition that we believe are inappropriate, fuelling the climate of stress and scepticism. Let’s not underestimate the encouragement that a ‘thank you’ or a ‘we appreciate you’, or, above all, a ‘we pray for you’, can have in the hearts of exhausted people!
Brief Prayer Requests
1. Modern Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece. When we read the two letters to the Thessalonians in the New Testament, we must not forget that the church is not like that now. But there is gospel work going on there. Antonis Topaloglou and his wife Viki have always been burdened for an evangelistic work in their home city. It is a city of 1.1 million people plus 200,000 students. Most are apathetic and neutral in spiritual terms. But there is a small Christian church there and led by Antonis, they are seeking to reach the population with the gospel. This year they have seen many people seeking to connect with them. At the same time they are starting projects and ministries according to the gifts of their members who want to use these for the glory of God.
2. There are many small churches in the Afan and Neath Valleys. They typically do not have pastors and are struggling to maintain fellowship and Sunday services and they have no online presence. The future for these churches is unclear. Many have elderly brothers and sisters in leadership. Please pray for them. Often they are the only gospel witness in the village.
3. It has been a real encouragement to see some of the children of the church on our weekly prayer meetings and to hear them pray. Their confidence in God and eagerness to bring everything to God in prayer is a real challenge to us. But it has been a long time since they have been allowed to meet their friends and teachers face to face. Let’s pray for them as plans are tentatively being made for schools to reopen at the end of this month. Pray for teachers, support staff, parents and children as they consider all that needs to be done for face to face education to begin again. Pray also for the government as they have very difficult decisions to make.
4. We have much to thank the Lord for as a church. He has cared for us all, provided for us, and protected us through the last three months. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday
Wed 10th Psalm 102 Thursday 11th Psalm 103
Friday 12th Psalm 104 Saturday 13th Psalm 105
Sunday 14th Psalm 106 Monday 15th Psalm 107
Tuesday 16th Psalm 108,109 Wed 17th Psalm 110,111
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 8th June 2020