The most difficult part of any mountain climbing expedition is negotiating the difficult and often dangerous path down to base camp. It can be steep, and gravity tends to pull you down faster than is safe or wise. We have seen the charts portraying the upward climb of coronavirus cases and now its slow but steady decline. So we are over the worst, we are told. But coming out of lockdown is proving much harder than going into it. How should we behave? In the latest edition of the magazine produced by the European Mission Fellowship Stefano Mariotti, from Italy, reflected on five ways to live the gospel during the #coronavirus. I have drawn heavily on it for last week and this week’s briefing.
Brief Devotional: Salt and Light
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5 v 13 – 16
Stefano asked the question, “As a church, how can we live the gospel in practice in these days?” He suggested five answers. Last week we looked at the first three: 1. A moment to be still. We can encourage one another to embrace this involuntary moment to be still (Psalm 46 v 10). 2. The necessity to intercede. 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. 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, by avoiding criticising, and by remembering that a ‘thank you’ or a ‘we appreciate you’, or, above all, a ‘we pray for you’, can give real cheer in the hearts of exhausted people!
4. The need to stay united. How can we live as the body of Christ when we cannot physically meet as a church, when public buildings are closed and private meetings in homes are forbidden? How can we obey the scripture command And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10 v 24-25)? Well, one way is to use the technology that we have. What an opportunity for the gospel to live under the sovereignty of God even with respect to our technology and to redeem these instruments for the glory of Christ. So, when we cannot physically meet and embrace each other, each of us can use our mobile phones and telephones without limit to call other believers, to pray together and to encourage one another. Sermons can be listened to online or in streaming. We can even meet up on Zoom for prayer and Bible Study. None of these is ideal; all are second best to physically being together, but how thankful we must be to the Lord for calling us to live out the gospel in our generation when we have so much technological help to keep us in touch. Being on YouTube also gives people outside our church the opportunity to watch. We may never know, in this world, how the Lord has used the online services of so many churches.
5. The privilege of blessing. How can we be salt and light during the cornavirus? How does the gospel guide us to live creatively and to discern the good works that God has prepared for us to do in these days in which we stay at home? In the end, without having to try too hard, there are so many ways we can bless our communities. Often it is in the little things. Maybe before we go shopping, we can send a message to our neighbours to ask them if they need anything. We can help the less tech-savvy to get onto Zoom or YouTube if they have the right apps. We can use the phone to keep in touch with neighbours. We can smile and talk to passers-by (from a safe distance).We can support local businesses as they begin to reopen. We take every opportunity, in season and out of season, to live the Gospel of Christ as his people in the midst of the coronavirus!
You may have heard on the news that churches are opening for private prayer. This is in England, not Wales. It is the result of pressure being put on the UK Government to open churches in line with opening non-essential food shops. Roman Catholics and High Church Anglicans, amongst others, consider their buildings to be sacred spaces. For this reason they have been pushing for reopening. Services are not allowed, and groups are not permitted to gather. Our theology teaches us that no building is sacred; we are all the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are free to pray wherever we find ourselves, under the Holy Spirit’s leading and enabling. So we won’t be opening our chapel until we are able to gather as the people of God for worship and fellowship (even if the Welsh Government follow England in allowing church opening for private prayer!)
Brief Prayer Requests
1. Are you ever lost for things to pray for? Have you tried praying through a passage of the Bible? Choose a passage, perhaps a Psalm or part of one of Paul’s letters. I would suggest Psalm 103 or Ephesians 1. Read a verse, and then turn it into a prayer. The Psalms are all prayers so you could use the same words, or you could take up the theme and use your own words.
2. Schools are preparing to return in Wales from 29th June. It is an anxious time for all involved. It is also an opportunity for Christian teachers, Parents and Governors to be salt and light. Pray that our confidence in the Lord will help others who are struggling.
3. Our sermons from Hebrews encourage us to pray for one another that we will not drift away from the Lord. If you haven’t already, why not make a list of people in the church to pray for?
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday
Wed 17th Psalm 110,111 Thursday 18th Psalm 112,113
Friday 19th Psalm 114,115 Saturday 20th Psalm 116
Sunday 21st Psalm 117,118 Monday 22nd Psalm 119 v 1 – 24
Tuesday 23rd Psalm 119 v 25 – 48 Wed 24th Psalm 119 v 49 – 72
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 15th June 2020