As a nation and as churches in the UK most of us have never lived through the isolating times we are currently facing. Even with the hardships of WWII, communities were able to gather together to support one another, to enjoy social interaction, to share laughter in the face of adversity. But here and now we are being advised to stay two metres away from one another, to socially isolate, as socially designed human beings this seems to be an anathema. As Christians (and other faith groups too) who have an understanding of humans as not only psychological and physical human beings but also as spiritual human beings, how do we uniquely respond in order to more strongly bind the spiritual together when we cannot cleave physically and our psychological make up is being challenged and potentially damaged?
Well we have two of the most powerful tools given to us by Almighty God: the Word of God and prayer, each made real to us through the gift of His Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that ‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…’
This word of God has not lost its power because we cannot proclaim it or expound it in our church buildings and gatherings. We can each recall stories we have either read or know about of people who have come to faith as a result of just reading the word of God. My son when he was 22, went on a gap year to Uganda soon after he had just become a Christian, this was not a Christian gap year. He did not attend a single church service in that time, nor did he really mix with Christians, but he did read two chapters of the Bible each day. He came home from that trip, inspired and dramatically deepened in his faith. God’s word is alive and active in and through us.
Therefore I encourage you to dig deeper into your Bibles, to share scriptures in messages, online, on the phone, continue to make God known through his word. God will not be silenced because we are not meeting and he will still feed us when we tune into a TV or online service or listen to a podcast or read a commentary. God will still enrich, enlighten and grow us through his powerful word. So sisters and brothers, be encouraged, share this powerful word together and build each other up.
Our second and equally important powerful tool is prayer. When Lyn Green was leading us in prayer on Thursday evening, she spoke about breathing in the peace of God and breathing out the anxiety.
This reminded me of Jesus standing before his anxious, frightened and confused disciples in John 20:19 and saying to them ‘Peace be with you’. He continues to do this for us today; he stands before each one of us in our isolation, our home offices, our empty churches and says ‘Peace be with you’, in the same way he breaths his Holy Spirit over us. As we receive his peace, we too are bearers of that peace to those around us. Our priority in the coming weeks, is not to see how many online sermons we can create, become experts in Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts or whatever, but to be the peace which passes all understanding and then to stand in the gap and pray. In saying this I am not denying the rightness of the resources that we will be providing for our congregations and the pastoral care that is needed, but start with breathing in God’s peace and allowing him to fill you and then share this peace and pray for those whom he has called you to care for.
Finally then let us daily, together, recall the verses found in Philippians 4:4-7
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
A few prayer points:
Finally His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.