Back to lockdown
Before Margaret and I went off for our holiday in Winchester, and our
following visit to my brother’s home for the EFCC Ministers’ Conference (on Zoom), I had
been preparing so there wouldn’t be too much to do before the weekend when I returned.
At that stage I was preparing for a service at the church during which we would be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. How things change and often in such an unwelcome way! As it is with another lockdown in force I will be recording the service at home and the service will
appear under sermons on the church website – we will make CDs available as needed.
How do Christians respond to the Government’s decisions?
Not only are the decisions frustrating and unwelcome, as was the case during the first lockdown, but we are faced with the question as to how right the decision was to include the closure of church services as part of the lockdown. A number of people have pointed out, as I did in an email to our Member of Parliament, that churches have generally been extremely conscientious about the regulations which have governed our worship and that there is no known case of worship services in a church leading to an increase in Covid 19 infections. There are a number of issues which rightly concern us. Firstly, should public worship be treated on a level with eating in a restaurant or going to the pub? I would want to argue that as humanity is body and soul it is vital to care for the soul as well as for the body! Secondly, it is quite clear that there is increased concern that the Government is assuming powers over public worship which are unprecedented – Theresa May spoke well and forcibly about this in the House of Commons debate. Currently we are promised a return to ‘normality’ in December and I suspect that there will be no changes until that point. Romans 13: 1 – 7 is still the key Bible passage which explains our obeying the Government at this point in time – we accept that they do have to make decisions and are committed to obedience unless obedience to the Government becomes disobedience to God.
Handling our own feelings at a very difficult time I am aware that a number of Christians,
including church leaders have been struggling, some suffering from the effects of stress and
resulting depression, over the past months. Inevitably, there will be many people who are
struggling with depression and other effects of enforced isolation. None of us are immune to
this so some thoughts which may help:
1. Scripture is Always Relevant On the first day of the new lockdown scheduled morning
Bible-reading was Psalm 125, which begins:
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and for evermore.
For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
What we have within the Psalm assures us in verse 1 that we are precious and special
in the Lord’s sight and that he protects us and keeps us – Jerusalem was always dear to God and his presence protected her. Verse 2 gives us a different picture – anyone in Jerusalem would know as they looked around that Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains/hills and the idea that the Lord surrounds us as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem is a lovely image and description of God’s care for us. Verse 3 gives us another glimpse of the wonderful care and love of our God towards us. If wickedness rules and God’s people are perpetually pressurised and struggling then there is the risk that their patience will fail and they will turn to sin and evil out of sheer frustration and because of their inherent weakness. We are assured here that this eventuality won’t happen because the Lord knows us and cares for us in every difficult situation and will provide a way of escape in what may seem to us absolutely overwhelming difficulty. It is an OT equivalent of a NT promise (1 Corinthians 10: 13),
‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he
will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also
provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’
2. The Faith of Earlier Generations of Christians can Comfort and Bless Us
I greatly appreciate the writing of previous generations of Christians. Recently I came across
this – it is in the Belgic Confession (originating from the Continental Reformation). It reflects on what the Bible teaches us about God’s Government of All Things and contains truths which we must take to heart and apply in our lives:
This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father, who watches over us with a paternal care, keeping all creatures so under His power that ‘not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father’,
in whom we do entirely trust, being persuaded that He so restrains the Devil and all our enemies that without His will and permission they cannot hurt us.
What will we be doing as a church? We will be returning to the pattern we had during the
previous lockdown. A number of people in the church have taken on the responsibility of
keeping in touch with everyone who attends. A Sunday Service and the Bible Study and
Prayer Meeting material will be on the church website each week and we will circulate
matters for prayer. Please do get in touch if there are ways we can support and help you –
we will be pleased to do what we can.
Yours in the Lord,
6th November 2020