Dear Church Family
Over the past few reflections, I have shared a portion of a song and linked it to our current situation. Today I continue that trend with a portion of a Beatles song.
It won’t be long, yeh,
It won’t be long, yeh, yeh, yeh.
As I shared at the weekend, the church will be open for private prayer from the beginning of July. Now, we heard yesterday, that we can begin limited public worship from July 5th, subject to all that needs to be done, being in place. I have met with the wardens, this morning, and we are attending a diocesan virtual ZOOM meeting, tomorrow evening, that will give the guidelines. The first services will be ‘Services of the Word’ (i.e. no communion) and will not include singing. However, we will be allowed to meet together, which is the vital first step.
The Bishop of London is heading up the nationwide ‘return to worship’ and she has made it clear that many churches will wish to continue to provide online resources. The maximum attendance will be 30 (which will work for us but not for many churches).
As the nation slowly rises from the ashes of COVID19, many people will need financial, material, emotional, mental and spiritual support. All of us need to play our part as God moves our hearts (and indeed our wallets).
As I read my bible in preparation for today, I came to a time in the history of God’s people when they were called to enter the promised land (indeed, to reclaim it, for it had been the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)
(Joshua 1:1) After the death of Moses the servant of GOD, GOD spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:
(2) “Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel.
(3) I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses.
(4) From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours.
(5) All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you.
(Jos 1:6) Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors.
(Jos 1:11) “Go through the camp and give this order to the people: ‘Pack your bags. In three days you will cross this Jordan River to enter and take the land GOD, your God, is giving you to possess.'”
(Jos 1:12) Then Joshua addressed the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. He said,
(Jos 1:13) “Remember what Moses the servant of GOD commanded you: GOD, your God, gives you rest and he gives you this land.
(Jos 1:14) Your wives, your children, and your livestock can stay here east of the Jordan, the country Moses gave you; but you, tough soldiers all, must cross the River in battle formation, leading your brothers, helping them
(Jos 1:15) until GOD, your God, gives your brothers a place of rest just as he has done for you. They also will take possession of the land that GOD, your God, is giving them. Then you will be free to return to your possession, given to you by Moses the servant of GOD, across the Jordan to the east.”
(Jos 1:16) They answered Joshua: “Everything you commanded us, we’ll do. Wherever you send us, we’ll go.
(Jos 1:17) We obeyed Moses to the letter; we’ll also obey you—we just pray that GOD, your God, will be with you as he was with Moses.
As I reread the passage, a few things struck me.
- What had been given, needed to be claimed. Nothing in life is ever given to us on a plate. I was 68 during the past week, yet I still have a recurring nightmare every now and then and had it again a few weeks ago. It goes like this. My university final exams are coming up. I suddenly realise that there is a whole area of the curriculum I have not covered. The exam is coming so fast that I do not have time to prepare and in any case have not handed in the course work required. Then I am in the exam hall, filled with stark terror, knowing I am going to fail. Then I wake up. With relief, I realise that those exams were years ago. I did do the work. I did obtain a good pass and have the documents to prove it (see pic). I was awarded the degree/s on the basis of the work. The pictures I have of my graduation show the moment when the students could enjoy the fruits of their labours. God wanted His people to have the land. Yet, the road to possessing it would be a hard one.
- It needed to be a thorough job (rather than a quick job). The promise was that every square inch of the land needed to be claimed. That process took generations. Joshua’s victories were great but they were only partial. The Canaanites held their cities for another 200 years. The Philistines took the Gaza strip and David fought to reclaim it. The struggle has flowed back and forth ever since. As we reclaim our everyday lives, after COVID, we do not return to an unchanged world and the new normal will prevail for a long time. In fact, it may never be like it was. However, the new normal could be better than the old in some ways, if lessons have been well learned. It may be that the new normal has more space for spiritual searches than the old?
- We need to move forward in battle formation. The threefold system of rules, we have been under for the past phase, begin with the instruction to ‘Stay Alert’. Whenever we go out we do so on a high degree of alertness. We have gloves and masks in our cars. We weave around people in the local shops. We step off the pavement when others approach. We think about things we would not have thought about four months ago. Every trip is organised and planned. We perform our own little risk assessment several times a day. We follow the man who comes to repair the leaky window frame with antibacterial wipes. Many of these things are ‘for a season’ but maybe there will be a lasting effect? Will we think more about all we do, how and when we do it? As a result of living ‘alert’ will we live more limited lives or richer fuller more thoughtful lives?
- Whatever our answers to the above, will the Lord our God be with us? The answer is clearly yes. It would have been yes if there had been no COVID crisis. However, will our heightened awareness bring a greater awareness of the presence of God in our everyday lives? It is my prayer that it will.
God Bless : Alan