Dear Friends, This year the Government decided that in commemorating V.E (Victory in Europe) Day they would emphasize the importance of the occasion by switching the Bank Holiday to the Friday. So today has been focused on VE Day for many people and doubtless many have gone through many emotions in response. How do we respond to a day like today in a distinctively Christian way? What I put below is really an exploration rather than a formula but do think and pray over it.
1. We are to be patriotic without being proud. We have much to thank God for in the history of our nation and the way it has been preserved and protected. It is a far from perfect history but clearly the Christian gospel has made a significant impact on our nation’s history and we are thankful for that.
2. We can be profoundly grateful for the defeat of Fascism. Fascism is a profoundly evil ideology which sought to single out and exterminate Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other groups – such as the handicapped who it perceived as being weak and inferior. It came about by making a scientific theory, evolution, into a foul ideology. The Bible History, expressed in Paul’s words at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17: 26): ‘And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the all the face of the earth’ makes it clear that all beliefs about racial superiority and entitlement are false to Scripture.
3. We are to be deeply saddened about the loss of life and terrible sadness that takes place because of war. Every person that dies, however mistaken in their ideology and however debased and even evil in their lifestyle is a destruction of God’s image and that makes those lost lives precious. Genesis 9: 5 and 6 are deeply moving: ‘From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’
4. We are to pray for those bereaved – many years have passed since the end of the 2nd World War but there will still be those who mourn the loss of relatives – lamenting the loss of brother or sister or father or mother. That will obviously be a sadness to those who have lost family members – son or daughter or husband or wife – in more recent conflicts. That will also extend to those who have family members, even recently, through terrorist activity in the UK. True comfort is not just to have the memory dulled by time but to know that there is a God who ordains all things in his wisdom and has shown his love and care for this fallen world in Christ. 5. We are to be thankful for peace in our time – and despite tragic terrorist incidents in the UK that has generally been true for us. Many asylum seekers in the UK have had to flee from war zones and are still deeply affected by news that they have coming out of their home countries.
6. We are to have our longing for a (2 Peter 3: 13): ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ deepened and are to be aware in a fresh way that in this world we are ‘exiles’ with ‘our citizenship is in heaven’. This world can never be the settled home of any believer. Until Christ comes we expect wars, rumours of wars and all the unhappiness that goes with that.
The Way ahead
Rumours of course abound about the ‘easing’ of lockdown. Some things are obvious. We will need to balance our desire for social contact with others and the need to be cautious and avoid a ‘second wave’ of Corona infection. Clearly church life, even when it is agreed that we resume services, will not be the same as we are used to for some time to come. Apart from anything else there will be those who are advised to continue in social isolation for some period into the future. We will need to provide for them so that at least they have a sense of being included and wanted even if it is not currently practical for them to be regularly engaged in meeting with other Christians.
We will need to adjust what we do - probably in relation to Sunday services and certainly in terms of how we engage in evangelism and our reaching out with the gospel. Do pray for those in leadership in our church and in other gospel churches known to you. We need great wisdom and a passionate concern for the spread of the gospel.
Not giving in to complacency In some ways a real danger is that we become quite accepting of the new regime and feel little need to change things. Some years ago I remember talking to a church member at my previous church. She had been a member for, I guess, well over forty years at this point. She experienced a period of weakness and for some time was unable to attend church. I remember that she was very open that, contrary to what she expected, she actually found re-establishing the pattern of regular church attendance to be very difficult. We need to examine our hearts to ensure that our desire to meet together, and to encourage one another, doesn’t diminish and fade because we currently cannot meet with one another.
What should we be doing at present? Last Sunday I looked for a sermon to listen to and actually got a recorded video service from St Briavels Congregational Church where Matt Rees, who spoke at last year’s church anniversary and civic service, is pastor. A point he made, which certainly hit home to me, was when he asked people if they were learning the lessons and so profiting from the lockdown as God wished them to do. He instanced a number of areas – regular bible reading and prayer – praying within the family – dealing with the tensions in a family that can so easily be ignored because we are all so busy – and challenged his hearers as to what they were doing. You may want to make a fresh start regarding some of these areas. Please contact me if I can help.
Yours in the Lord (and until God willing we meet again) Mike Plant 8th May 2020