HOW ARE YOU DOING?
This present time for me appears to be more stressful than any other period of our COVID-19 lives. bI feel particularly for our lay leadership, who apart from their own personal struggles through this time are now having to cope with pressures of ‘should we open … when might we open … what do we have to do … who looks after what?’
At this time in our history we are responsible mainly for people in the most vulnerable age bracket (I know, I’m in there!). Some of these faithful people are keen to return, while others are reluctant, and both positions are perfectly understandable. Some may have got out of the rhythm of weekly worship and may perhaps not quickly return. Others who may have experienced alternate worship styles may now be looking at other options. It must be for many a most pressure-filled time and I am personally very conscious of this.
That is why I ask the question above very seriously: How are you doing right now? Do you have someone as a support person to share concerns with? As a presbytery, is there anything specific we need to be focusing on? Everyone receiving this newsletter via email has my email address and I would value your feedback. We are all going through this for the first time and we need to learn from each other and care for one another.
You can tell that I am a retired Minister of the Word, because if I was as active as in the past, I would have known that this week’s gospel looks at weeds; which of course I discussed last week. Oh well, you will just have to look back to see what I was on about.
This week’s gospel also has a deal of fire and brimstone in it. I recall the story of a ‘turn or burn’ preacher once who spoke on this passage. He really cranked up his sermon calling out all sinners to repent, and his message reached a crescendo as he roared out the challenge from Matthew 13: “Repent you sinners or you will be thrown into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!!’
There was a faithful dear old lady in the front pew almost quaking with fear as she stammered out, ‘But I don’t have any teeth?’ ‘TEETH WILL BE PROVIDED!’ roared the preacher.
There is a lot of talk right now about what the new normal is going to look like. My hunch is that initially it may look a lot like the old one. What I hope is that we can remain open to new things and value some of the innovative things we have experienced, not so much as a stop gap, but perhaps as a clue to the future.
When I first entered fulltime ministry at Sawtell I came off six years of working with kids who roamed our local CBD at the weekends. Our team built up quite a reputation in Victoria for the work we were doing. On arrival in the Mid North Coast I was asked by one local leader when we might start doing street work with the young people of the area. We never did. However, the things that I learned over those formative years informed the style of ministry that we began to put in place and slowly developed a powerful community connection. It wasn’t rocket science, but with prayer and a deal of hard work it came together for a deal of good.
Our presbytery leadership will be looking at how we can build on what has been learned so far and how we might create a resource bank that is useful and fruitful going forward. Again, if you have have any clues please feed it all into the conversation.
Nature thought for the week
Last week I mentioned that winter can be a quiet time in the garden, but this does not mean nothing is happening. On the contrary, there is a lot going on down there!
This present COVID crisis has caused us to rethink a lot of things. My hope is that this time has also given us time to focus in on what the main priorities for us as local communities in worship and mission are. It may be cold and windy, but we can prepare the soil for the coming harvest. We can pray, we can make that phone call, we can share a coffee., and in doing so perhaps share the hope that is with us.
A Reminder from last week
If you have commenced, or are planning on recommencing worship, do not forget to update your website with the details and restrictions. Most congregation’s website can be found using https://midnorthcoast.uca.org.au/find-a-church/.
If your congregation does not maintain your website, the Church Council leadership can contact Stephen Nicholson on 0439 818 622 to discuss relevant changes.
Readings: Genesis 28:10-19a, Psalm 139:1-12 & 23, 24, Romans 8:12-25 and Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Almost 300 years ago a preacher was in a low time in his ministry. On the morning of the 24th May 1738, while at prayer he read 2 Peter 1:4: Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
The tired and dispirited preacher wrote in his journal: ‘I claimed those promises with all the faith I could muster. However, even though I believed, I had not been renewed in the image of God. I had no communion with God so that I could dwell in Him and He in me.’
That night he went ‘very unwillingly’ to a Society in Aldersgate Street, London, where someone was reading from Luther’s preface to the Book of Romans.
Reading from John Wesley’s journal: ‘Before I could raise my usual question (concerning this change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ) the Holy Spirit performed his miracle, and I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.
It is said that the revival of faith that flowed out of the preaching and teaching of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield saved England from a Civil War.
There is something about this writing of the Apostle Paul that is truly life changing. I have experienced this truth for myself and can only encourage you to dig deep into the Book of Romans. We are spending some good time in Romans 8 right now. Let us not waste the opportunity.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.