Hope in the Storm
Week beginning 12 July 2020
Many of us are eager to recommence our church gatherings together. We have all missed the time we spend together in worship and conversation, we miss singing together and sharing our spiritual experiences together. Some of you have engaged with the Zoom meetings on Sunday’s and used the opportunity to “have a go” at leading. Some of you are desperate to be together as a church community. And you know that in this new situation we all find ourselves in, we are going slowly, watching and waiting to see what happens in our nation now that so many more things are open including Lynton & Lynmouth with holiday makers here. This week and next week I would like to ask each one of you to work through these questions. Please let me know your thoughts to these questions – you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org with your responses. They are based on the URC document “Ready for the “New Normal” and “The World Rebooted” by Tearfund. To ponder and discuss In terms of church life, is there anything…: Good/valuable that you would like to continue and develop through this phase? That you have thought, ‘I wonder if we could try this…?’ To ponder and respond as we look forward to church opening how do you respond to the following statements? You might like to indicate your strength of feeling, positive or negative, with a score of 0 to 5 by the comment, or draw appropriate “smiley” faces to indicate warmth or coolness towards the idea, or express your neutrality. • “We return to being church in our traditional/established ways as soon as possible.” • “We recognise that health and social restrictions will be with us for a long time and so we cannot do what we’ve always done at least for a long time.” • “Our return is governed by what is financially possible, appreciating that our wider church life’s sustainability may have been stretched.” • “Our return, along with practical considerations on social distancing, will be shaped by discerning God’s new mission for us in the post-lockdown context, locally.” • “We learn from the lessons of the lockdown days, mindful that some churches have been able to reach parts of the community that traditional ministry didn’t touch, including (but not only) through worship offered online.” Can we see the challenges and opportunities for ministry in each of these scenarios? What are the challenges? The opportunities? We are on a journey through this pandemic, not knowing our destination. We are aware that we follow in a line of saints of old, who have set off before us in the footsteps of Jesus, walking the Way. Like those before us, we may travel with faith and doubt, hope and fear, and, perhaps, have a holy encounter along the way. That we travel at all will mean that we are changed. Pilgrimage is about taking and risking such a journey, faith is knowing that we are accompanied by God, hope is in a Kingdom destination, and love may be experienced with companions. Let this reflection lead you into a time of prayer, thanking God for His close presence, and asking for courage to face the uncertainties, and wisdom to understand the direction ahead and the speed at which you should travel. PRAYER: OPEN TO GOD. Lord, open my eyes to your presence in the world about me. Lord, open my ears to your call; make me attentive to you. Open my heart to your love as revealed in those who love me.
This weeks YouTube link with songs for worship is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEubLmNPxwg Have a blessed week Jacquey
HOPE IN A TIME OF CRISIS We are so quickly led to fear and despair and most of us cannot endure that for long without some sliver of hope. In Acts 27, Luke tells the story of a boat trip, an unexpected storm and what they did to avert shipwreck. "When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor'easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm." Acts 27:13-15 MSG. How suddenly life changes. Light seas and gentle breezes morph into gale-force winds as thunder cracks the sky and snatches away the illusion that you were ever in control. Covid-19 might be that storm for you. 2020 began as a gentle breeze and you thought the future held smooth sailing, unaware of the tempest bearing down. The storm drove Paul's out of control ship before it. They lost cargo and, "Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight." Acts 27:29. The storm could have destroyed the ship, but the anchors held it secure through the tumultuous night until daylight arrived. When an unexpected storm blows in and the sea around you is littered with the debris of your life, how do you keep from being smashed against the rocks? Do you have anchors that will hold you secure through the darkness until daylight arrives? "Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. God's love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love." Eric Liddell At those times when circumstances appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, there are anchors that can hold us secure. One of those anchors is 'hope'. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast." Hebrews 6: 19. Experts agree that in times of crisis, hope is a most needful thing. Without hope, we can be shipwrecked. Without hope, we can be overcome by despair, fear and anxiety. Without hope, we easily spiral downwards. It's worth asking ourselves about where our hope lies. Is it tied to a future good outcome? Like the economy coming right, to your dream being fulfilled or your health recovering? Is it tied to our hard work - pulling ourselves up by our bootlaces? Or to our jobs, or the size of our bank account or to our network of friends and support services? While these are all helpful, they can sometimes prove unreliable anchors that might fail under certain conditions. In Acts 27:20, after days of enduring the storm, and despite the best efforts of the experienced experts - the sailors and the Captain - Luke writes, "We gave up all hope of being saved." But Paul stands up and declares it will be okay and all their lives will be spared. When all natural help and hope had failed, in what was Paul's hope based? Biblical hope has a life of its own, seemingly without reference to external circumstances and conditions. It has something to do with an experience of being met and of being held in communion. It is a journey toward the innermost parts of our being where we meet and are met by God. God had met with Paul and assured him it would be okay. When we meet God in our storm, a confident expectation (hope) arises. Not confidence based on necessarily knowing how things will turn out, but confidence in God that no matter how bad this gets, it's not the end of the story. That somehow, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Julian of Norwich. I don't want to suggest that it's always easy to come to this place of hope. Sometimes all we can do is turn to God and trust His word, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8. This hope will change your innermost way of seeing. From there, inevitably, the externals of our lives will rearrange themselves. Corrie Ten Boom, encourages us, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." That's an anchor that will hold you in the severest storm! From Bread on the waters https://www.facebook.com/breadonthewaters/posts/685394122207930