Week beginning 28th June 2020
This week I started into the section called Book Three in the Psalms and specifically Psalm 73. This psalm is written by Asaph, who was an organiser and leader for the temple choirs in the days of David. He was one who prophesied according to the order of the king (1 Chronicles 25:1-2). The Psalmist starts “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure.” (1) He reflects on God’s goodness to the nation and to those who revere him. Do we start our conversations with the Father, thinking about and praising Him for His goodness? How can we do that this coming week? Then the psalmist personalises his thoughts, “But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.”(2-3) Having doubts like Asaph’s is not incompatible with responsible Christian living. It may have been true, as he says, that his feet ‘had almost slipped.’ But they had not actually slipped, or at least they had not slipped so far as to make him forget his responsibilities as a leader of God’s people. (Boice) He confesses how he has failed and that which has caused him to fail. Then he goes on and on about “them”. How bad they are, or how good “they” seem to have life! “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease. While their riches multiply. Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” (12-14) How often can we do the same, we maybe fail or miss the mark and then lay the blame on “them” and everything else around us? Then the psalmist continues reflecting on his situation and takes the time to think about what is happening and shares his thoughts. “If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!”(15-16) Asaph then takes action, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17) In the Presence of God the important things stand out, He gives the answer, the insight. By prayer and worship in the sanctuary, he understood that God was at the centre of all things, and he gained a fresh appreciation of both God and eternity. By hearing the word of God in the sanctuary, he understood that there was a truth that went beyond what he saw and experienced in everyday life. By observing sacrifice at the sanctuary, he understood that God takes sin so seriously that it must be judged and atoned for, even if it is by an innocent victim who stands in the place of the guilty by faith. The psalmist carries on writing with the understanding that the Lord has placed in his mind and eventually has another personal revelation, “Then I realised that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.” (21-22) Despite this revelation of the bitterness in his heart, the Psalmist still adheres to the truth… “Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading to a glorious destiny.” (23-24) Asaph here declared both that he was with God, and that God was with him. It wasn’t enough for Asaph to know and to say that God was with him; he also had to confess that he was with God. His reflection carries on… “Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (25-26) Asaph recognised both his weakness and the strength of God, as well as the enduring character of God’s strength. Asaph gloriously concludes: “But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my Shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (27) Perhaps you could write your own Psalm along the lines of this psalm: starting with reflecting on God’s goodness; what has that looked like for you recently? What might you need to confess? Be specific. How have you missed the mark and what has caused you to fail? Be honest. What problems have you had? Cry out to the Lord with them, be extremely honest. Nothing is too big or difficult God. How can you find space and peace to take time to think about the situation you are confessing? Allow the quiet to wash over you and let the Lord, place thoughts into your mind. Read scripture, place yourself in the presence of the Lord, He will respond, are you listening? What has been revealed to you about yourself? How does that make you feel? Does that revelation change your perception of the Lord? What truths can you call to mind now? Write out those that come to mind. What to you recognise about yourself? Your weakness and the strength of God, as well as the enduring character of God’s strength? Can you write a declaration that you are with God, and that God is with you? It wasn’t enough for Asaph to know and to say that God was with him; he also had to confess that he was with God. What one statement can you conclude with? If you would like to share your “psalm” with me and/or others email me and I will include next time.
We have heard the very sad news that Ann Ashby died last week.
She died at home with Tony and her son around her.
Ann has been an Elder and member of our church community for many years. She was a vibrant Christian and continued to share the Gospel during her short illness. Ann was an enthusiastic animal carer, taking in many unwell and stray cats with North Devon Animal Ambulance.
She will be greatly missed by us all and so many friends and local people.
Questions about Church opening
The Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church (URC), makes the following statement after Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, announced the easing of an array of lockdown restrictions.
“The Prime Minister spoke today (23 June) about the relaxation of a number of Covid-related restrictions in England, from 4 July. The restoration of church worship, although without singing, is reportedly one of these. Many URC congregations will want to think carefully about how to respond to this possibility. We rejoice when we can worship together. Yet haste could lead to mistakes and danger.
“To help local churches to make proper plans, the Synod Moderators are presently working on careful URC guidance, which we hope to get onto the central URC website within a few days. Whether we can do so may depend on HM Government’s own timetable, as they intend to issue detailed guidelines to fill out the announcement made today, and we must be mindful of what we find there.
“So, watch this space. The URC’s official guidance, for our churches in England, will be published. Scotland and Wales, and the small island jurisdictions, have their own governments, regulations and timetables. We must always heed public advice and direction, whether from governments or from local authorities.
“With care, with distance, with gladness, we shall one day be able to worship together. For some of us that day may not be far ahead. But let’s do it responsibly.”
On Wednesday 1st July, Julia, Roger and I will have an Elders Meeting to work though the documentation that the URC have provided and any additional requirements made by our insurers. There are many steps to work through before any final decision is made as to whether and when we are open for services. The Pandemic is not over, and we must show loving actions to all, through what we can, to minimise the risk of infection from our premises and our people. There is no need to rush back into the familiar – the old patterns and habits. We have an opportunity to take stock and re-focus on what matters most to Jesus and to you. We have received one email so far with thoughts, suggestions and concerns. Do please get in touch with us with your thoughts and suggestions, so that we can consider them together when working through the decision process in the next few weeks. You can email us on: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
This weeks YouTube link with songs for worship is available here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHnJn7EgQjAxEe1uR00xar8Yl0tVKBvWh Have a blessed week Jacquey