Just as we witnessed the change from spring summer in the opening up of buds and flowers, so we are now seeing the beginning of an opening up of our world in Wales. Children have started to return to school, shops are beginning to open, and the five mile rule has been lifted so that we are able to travel to see loved ones. No good news yet for those of us needing a haircut, or for a return to chapel worship, but we continue to thank the Lord for the many ways we can keep in touch. However, if lockdown has been tough, coming out of it may be tougher and a real test of our faith.
Brief Devotional: Keeping Faith
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14 v 30 – 31
It all started so well. Peter was as terrified as the other disciples when he first saw Jesus walking on the water towards their little boat. The boat was being buffeted by the wind and waves; the disciples had been struggling to keep it all together and row towards the shore. It was then, during the fourth watch of the night (between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.) that Jesus came to them walking on the lake. As soon as Peter heard Jesus’ voice he asked, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water”. Jesus said just one word, “Come”. So Peter ventured out of the boat. All went well for a few minutes, but then Peter saw the wind and was afraid. At that point he began to sink and cried out to Jesus. Of course, immediately, Jesus reached out and caught him so that he did not drown. But he also gave Peter a gentle rebuke, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
If we are honest, we have been struggling against adverse winds these last four months. No chapel, no physical fellowship, no teas and coffees, no Teeny Tots, Girls Craft or Afternoon Teas. We have had to retreat online or contact one another by letter and phone. The chapel has been shut up and stands empty on Sundays. Our faith has taken a hit. How are we doing? Do we have little faith or are we strengthened in faith?
What is faith? John Calvin helpfully reminds us that faith must never be divorced from the word of God. “Faith is a knowledge of God’s will as derived from his word.” He explains further, “The word is, as it were, faith’s objective and its goal, to which it must forever look; if it turns away from it, it is no longer faith but irresolute credulousness and faltering error. The word is the foundation on which faith rests and is supported; once it is removed, faith immediately topples. If the word is withdrawn, faith ceases to exist.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion 1541 version)
We see this in Peter’s case. He got out of that boat in response to the word of Jesus. Just one word, “Come”, but it was enough. Whilst Peter remembered that word and acted on it, all was well. As soon as he took his eyes off the Lord and forgot his command, looking at the wind and the waves, he began to sink. His faith was strong as long as he remembered and acted on Jesus’ word. When he stopped doing that he began to sink. That is why Jesus told him he had little faith.
The lesson for us is clear. We must feed our faith on the word of God. Whether we read, listen to or sit under the preached word, we must forever look to the word of God. It is the foundation on which our faith rests. Faith is not a vague belief in God, a vain hope that all will be well. No! Faith rests on the word of God that informs us and instructs us in God’s ways. While we act according to the word of God, we will not sink. We will rise above the waves of this troubled world and be able to do all things through Christ the Lord who strengthens us.
Brief Prayer Requests
1. On Sunday, I started the online service with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. Each Sunday through the year, there is a Collect for the day. A Collect is a short prayer to be read on an appointed day. Sunday 5th July was the fourth Sunday after Trinity. It happens to be my favourite collect: O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou, being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.
2. Our brothers and sisters in England are slowly returning to church services. A lot has changed. Services will be shorter than usual; hand sanitisers will have to be used at the doors; only family groups can sit together; everyone has to maintain social distance; there is a one way system to avoid people coming face to face with others; toilets will have to be very carefully managed and cleaned; church hymn books and Bibles cannot be used; singing is not allowed. This may seem rather strict and unnecessary, but consider what has happened in three factories in Wales. If a coronavirus outbreak was traced back to a church what would that do to our witness in the community? The sixth commandments requires us to care for the health of those around us. We need to pray for our friends and their churches in England.
3. Please also continue to pray for our own church leadership. We have already begun to consider how we will be able to meet together once the Welsh Government gives us the go ahead. Please be aware that we may not be able to return on the first Sunday after it is possible to meet. There is much to think about in our building.
4. We have so much for which to give thanks to God. A few of our members have been in hospital during the pandemic, but none for Covid 19. Whilst we rightly mourn with those who mourn, we should also give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love to us. We continue to pray for those who are key workers, recognising that their work is not without risk. Also, let us uphold Gloria Rowlands as she grieves the loss of her husband, John, early on in lockdown. May she be comforted that he is with the Lord.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday. We finish the book of Psalms this week and pick up our New Testament readings in the book of Acts.
Wed 8th Psalm 142,143 Thursday 9th Psalm 144
Friday 10th Psalm 145 Saturday 11th Psalm 146,147
Sunday 12th Psalm 148 Monday 13th Psalm 149,150
Tuesday 14th Acts 1 Wed 15th Acts 2
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 6th July 2020