We are now well into the school summer holidays! I know that it seems like one long holiday since March, but actually the young people have been working hard through the term completing assignments and work set by their teachers. But now is official holiday. Congratulations to those who have achieved the marks they needed to go on to further study. We pray that all children and young people will have a relaxing and enjoyable summer holiday. My favourite place in the holidays, as I was growing up, was the local library. I arrived as soon as I could in the morning and only went home for food and sleep. In fact, my idea of bliss was to be locked in a library all night! Sadly, I was always asked to leave at closing time. This lockdown has been an opportunity to read widely and to finish books that were started long ago but put down for more pressing ones. So today, I want to bring you a little fruit from some of my reading. Especially a little book called “Where is God in a coronavirus world?” by John Lennox, written this year, and the Book of Common Prayer, written in 1549. Both have, for me, shed light on our experience during this pandemic.
Brief Devotional: Common to Mankind
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. 1 Corinthians 10 v 13
Paul, writing to the Corinthian church in the first century, reminds them that their experience is not new. Others have been through similar trials in the past. In particular, the Old Testament is full of examples of people who were tested and tried. In many cases those people failed. Their failures are our warnings. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul reminds us of the great privileges the people of God had in the time of Moses. They were delivered from Egyptian oppression, they passed through the Red Sea, they were provided for in the desert with manna and water. Though they did not know it, Christ himself was accompanying them (verses 1 – 5). Yet most of them died in the desert. They never made it to the Promised Land. The root of their failure was that they set their hearts on the wrong things: idolatry, sexual immorality, testing the Lord and grumbling all resulted from turning away from God in a time of trial. We are to take notice of this and to be warned.
Then, in verse 13, Paul reminds us that testing and temptation are common to mankind. There is nothing we will ever go through that others have not been through before us. This is true of pandemics. John Lennox reminds us that we have been here before. He reminds us of historical pandemics. The first recorded was the Antonine Plague or Plague of Galen in AD 165 – 180. This may have been measles or smallpox. It killed around 5 million people. Then the Plague of Justinian (AD 541 – 542). This was a bubonic plague and killed over 25 million. The Black Death in the 14th Century wiped out around 70 – 100 million people. Much later there were several cholera pandemics in the 19th and 20th Centuries in which over a million died. The flu pandemic of 1918 – 1920 took the lives of 20 to 50 million. Some of you will remember the Asian Flu of 1956 – 1958 and Hong Kong Flu in 1968 – 1969. HIV/AIDS pandemic was at its peak in 2005 – 2012 and its death toll is around 32 million. So coronavirus is not the first. But it is the first to affect our lives so dramatically. Perhaps this is because medical advances have made us more aware of the spread of viruses, and technology has communicated the spread more quickly than in previous generations.
But we must remember that others have been where we are now. That is a small comfort. The greatest comfort is that “God is faithful”. Paul wants us to know that whatever we are going through, we can continue to trust God and to live for him. We must not fall into sin, as those in the Old Testament did. Rather, we must continue to look to God in Christ to keep us, and we must live lives of holiness that will glorify him.
Brief Prayer Requests
1. The Book of Common Prayer has a special prayer in the time of any common plague or sickness. Here it is
O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also in the time of king David didst slay with the plague of Pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest; Have pity on us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It may sound old fashioned to us, but our forefathers who wrote that book of prayer knew how to use the examples in the Old Testament to pray for our present needs. We can learn from them. Next week I will share with you the prayer of thanksgiving after plague. That is very helpful too.
2. This week EMW have started a Camp Lite online programme for young people who have been disappointed that the camps have been cancelled this year. They will go out every Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week and in two weeks time (next week is Aber Lite from Tuesday to Thursday, if you have access to a computer you can find out more at www.emw.org.uk). Please pray that the youngsters will find them helpful and that the Lord will use them for his glory in the conversion and building up of young people in the faith.
3. Please continue to pray for our own church leadership as we consider the needs of the church and the government guidance for a return to chapel services. In line with many AECW churches, we are planning to return, if possible, in September, providing we can do so safely. We will give you more details when we have them.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the readings from this Wednesday.
Wed 5th Acts 23 Thursday 6th Acts 24
Friday 7th Acts 25 Saturday 8th Acts 26
Sunday 9th Acts 27 Monday 10th Acts 28
Tuesday 11th Romans 1 Wed 12th Romans 2
Warmly yours in the Lord Your Pastor Jeremy 3rd August 2020