Sunday Reflections

 
Although we are unable to meet for regular worship at the moment, we invite everyone to pray together, each in their own homes, at 11am each Sunday. [Please pray at another time if that suits better]
 

Reflections for Sunday 5th April 2020

Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thessalonians 5:16-18)

 

The following New Testament reading forms part of Paul’s concluding remarks to the church in Philippi, now part of modern Turkey. It reads as follows:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.....

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength....

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:4-9,11-13,19-20)

I’ve always found this passage hugely challenging, yet immensely encouraging. All of us face issues of various kinds, COVID 19 included. Yet, without ignoring any of them or brushing anything under the carpet, Paul encourages us to focus our attention entirely upon Christ.

The Lord is near. Tell him what you need. His peace will guard you through everything. You may rest content he will provide and give you strength for every situation. But there’s a secret to peace and contentment. And that’s thanksgiving!

Problems have a way of sucking us in and absorbing all our energies. Worries and anxieties easily become all-consuming, The challenge therefore is to tear our attention away from them and, consciously and deliberately, reorientate our outlook in thanksgiving and faith. It’s a message which lies at the very heart of the Gospel. It was central to Jesus’ preaching. “Repent”, he said, “and believe the good news”.

Tragically, the common understanding of repentance is associated with ideas of remorse and regret. But this distorts the key thrust of what is meant. Repentance properly refers to a change of perspective (mind and purpose) in light of something better. The emphasis, therefore, is always on what or who we turn towards, rather than on what we turn from. It’s about a renewal of our outlook and attitude in light of God’s grace.

This takes time. It’s something we learn. And it’s a thing we get better at, the more we do it. As each new situation arises, we often have to go back to basics and do it afresh – especially when we’re confronted by something we haven’t faced before.

Thanksgiving is key to this process. And, sadly, it’s easy to forget. Yet, when we do it, God’s peace comes. Thanksgiving turns our attention to what we have, who we have, and who is ‘for us’ in the midst of things. It turns the focus to Christ and his faithfulness. Our problems and fears are then put into proper perspective. The difficulties are still there but they are now placed in the much wider context of God’s goodness.

The result is peace. And this in turn opens the way to receive his strength, his wisdom and his comfort.

To summarise the passage: Paul began by reminding us that God is near. He then encourages us to present our requests in the context of thanksgiving – assuring us the peace of God will break through. This is followed by an instruction about how that peace is maintained – by filling our minds with positive things and putting into practice what we have learned. He then continues with a note from his own experience. He has learned the secret of contentment. He has discovered fresh strength for all he has had to do. This same God, he concludes, will meet all your needs too.

I finish with some words from a doctor in India:

Social distancing is a privilege – it means you live in a home large enough to practise it.
Hand washing is a privilege too – it means you have access to running water.
Hand sanitisers are a privilege – they mean you have money to buy them.
Lockdowns are a privilege – they mean you can afford to live with a roof over your head.
Most of the ways to ward off the coronavirus are available only to the affluent.
In essence, a disease which was spread by the rich as they flew around the globe, will now take its toll on the poor.

We have much to be thankful for and much to pray about – and not only for ourselves.

The peace of Christ be with you all
David

 

Reflections for Sunday 29th March 2020
 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6,7)
 
Today’s reading comes from the New Testament – a short passage at the end of a letter from Peter, one of the prominent leaders in the early church. The whole section (1 Peter 5:7-11) reads:
 
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
 
Earlier this week Newsnight interviewed Italian physicist and bestselling author, Carlo Rovelli – lauded by Stephen Hawking and numerous others, and as much a philosopher and poet as he is a scientist. Speaking amidst the crisis in Italy he said, “This will be a very humbling experience for humanity as a whole. We are not the master of everything. We have to deal with nature; we have to listen to people who say there is a threat coming... Humbly and accepting our weakness we will come out of it”.
 
Peter also writes amidst threats and suffering. Although, in his context, it’s mainly persecution he has in mind. Quoting from Psalm 55:22, he encourages his readers to cast their burdens and concerns upon God. These are strong sentiments. The word used for anxiety, concerns or worries literally means: those things which fracture or divide a person’s being into fragments, as the various pieces are pulled in differing directions. It’s a graphic picture of the turmoil trials may bring us. 
 
The word used for ‘casting’ these things upon God is equally so. It means to hurl or fling – a complete disposal, vigorously thrown – of everything in all their fragmented totality upon him. And why? Because God cares. Because (Psalm 55) ‘he will sustain you’. And because (v6) he wishes to ‘lift you up in due time’.
 
To do this requires humility – a complete letting go of things, where everything is put entirely into his hands. Not just because God opposes all human pride but because it is key to experiencing his favour and deliverance. When Peter speaks of a surrender to his ‘mighty hand’, he uses a turn of phrase used consistently in the Bible in the context of salvation. It was with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm that he rescued his people from their enemies (e.g. Exodus 13:9, Deuteronomy 3:24 & 9:26). It speaks of his mighty and enthusiastic intervention in human affairs ‘with his sleeves rolled up’. 
 
It takes humility to submit to his salvation. This is because it is his work and not ours. Later in our passage (v10) Peter tells of how “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ... will himself restore you and make you strong...” The word ‘himself’ is stressed and emphatic. It is something he does, not us. “To him be the power for ever and ever.” (v11)
 
Humility belongs to truth and it emerges in us as an attitude of the heart and with an internal, trusting disposition – yet it’s something expressed practically and in the way we conduct ourselves. In making our own personal surrender, we simply speak honestly and from our hearts, recognising we are dependent creatures, reliant upon his mercy and that he is our our loving and eternal Father. Sometimes people choose to express that physically in their posture, sitting head bowed or standing, eyes lifted to the heavens, or with hands stretched out before him. Some choose to kneel. Others may lie prostrate. We find all these expressions in the Bible and amongst the saints of old. But, whatever we do, we do it in gratitude for his rich and undeserved kindness in Jesus. 
 
And so as Christians we pray, speaking directly through Christ with the Lord of all – the source of all life and practical wisdom – confident in his loving concern. We seek mercy and deliverance for ourselves and our nation. We call upon him in humility, recognising it is his grace, and his grace alone, which sustains us. Called into his glory in Christ, we yield beneath his mighty hand and cast all cares upon him. And in so doing we find he lifts us up. Thank you, Lord!
 
The peace of Christ be with you all
David
 
 
Prayers for the Nation
Churches across the country called Sunday 22nd March as a National Day of Prayer. Premier Christian Radio recorded a number of prayers from church leaders and put them together in one podcast. Although the date has now passed, the prayers are still pertinent. To listen in and pray along with them, click here.
 
Article Category: