Read the latest thoughts and reflections on this season from Tim, our vicar.
Dear St Swithins friends
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ
Whatever our thoughts and feelings during this time of crisis, we cannot get away from the chaos that Covid-19 has caused. If you’re isolated in your own flat or you’re at home and you’re warm, you have food, are connected with friends, family, church and loved ones, it is worth remembering that there are many people in the world who would love to be in our position, because there is chaos around us. At the top of Lansdown, here at the Rectory it is surreal; silence, no traffic, no workmen, no passers by. Silence, apart from the birdsong! However, speak to our wider families and we have family members who are out of work, family members who are stranded abroad, family members working for the NHS, friends who have contracted the virus, and yesterday news that a college friend’s son has died from the effects of the virus. Chaos.
Throughout the Bible there are stories of chaos and disorder, that are all part of living in a fallen and broken world. Running through all of those narratives is the continuous presence and faithfulness of God even in the storm. We recently looked at the book of Job, noticing how chaos and disorder came to Job overnight, but also noticing that during those times of crisis, that we’re still called to renew our trust in God, His word, His kingdom and His ultimate purposes as Job does in Job 19. God also spoke to Job in the midst of the storm in Job 38-42.
This Easter season amidst our chaos how can you renew your trust in God? One of the recent songs we occasionally sing is ‘This is amazing Grace’; a line in the song asks ‘Who brings our chaos back in to order?” So can I encourage you to persevere in praying this Easter that God’s kingdom would come, God’s will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Growing up as a younger brother in a family, I don’t enjoy overbearing controlling figures in my life. Never have. I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage they do. My time doing counselling training and seeing the damage that controlling behaviours have in destroying relationships, have only increased my appreciation of the dangers of control, but also opened my own eyes to the ‘logs in my own eyes’, while I pick specks out of others!! Luke 15 reminded us of the lostness of both sons in wanting to control their Father’s things, but not responding to the extravagant love of the Father.
In certain streams of the evangelical church, control is a word that is often used, as it’s a way of describing how God is ‘in control’ even when evil, suffering, sin and disappointment are all around us and influencing us. Charismatics seldom use the word control, but instead speak of God’s Kingdom and God’s sovereignty reflecting the dynamism of the good rule and reign of the King and life of God’s Spirit, that still gives room for freedom and personal responsibility.
As I’ve said a number of times before, so many of us like to give the illusion that we are in control. The last few months are a very stark reminder of the frailty of our humanity and of the world and our human limitations, however hard we work. Older brother lostness really doesn’t work. Christians are able to offer hope, love and care with an eternal picture of the world, where even death itself is not the last word if we put our trust and faith in God. Maybe, if we let go of the illusions of our own supremacy and control and recognised how much of our behaviours are dominated by fear, we might discover afresh the wonder and joy of a life lived with God and grow in this season. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3. 5, 6.
The world is being humbled, but are we listening? One of the things I’ve been reflecting on is, as we come to terms with social distancing, what do we carry to each other as we connect in our daily lives? With all the anxiety and fear associated with a hidden virus that we can’t see and that we may or may not pass on to anyone else, its been striking to hear so many conversations, that go along the lines of, “No, I’m not going to see X because I don’t want to pass on the virus just in case. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
This pandemic has heightened our awareness of danger and our responsibilities to each other and how we’re all called to show loving concern by not harming another person through our reckless behaviour. This Sunday we’re looking at how Paul calls the church in Romans 14 not to judge, harm or be a stumbling block to each other with our words. Christians are called to be carriers of God’s grace, mercy, love, care, compassion, truth, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. We are carriers of God’s blessing. We are carriers of the kingdom of God. We are carriers of His presence. I still believe the world is longing for those things. God would you come afresh on your beloved church of St Swithin’s so that we would radiate the infectious nature of your glorious presence. Carriers of your grace and love.
I’ve had lots of conversations in the last few years that go along the lines of, “Tim I can’t change now, I’m too old, too set in my ways, too like this particular personality type, too like this or that. My circumstances mean I can’t change.” It’s amazing how a crisis shows us what’s possible. Transformation and change is an on-going part of living in the world and being a follower of Jesus. So if you are frustrated, disappointed or feel stuck in your Christian life, my prayer is that you take the new opportunities God is providing for each one of us.
Many commentators have remarked on how this is like an extended Lent period or even a reminder of our need for rest, to take our Sabbath. Nigel Scotland reminded us of the importance of God’s rest last year and maybe God is giving you the opportunity to find His rest again in this season. Why not visit the website and listen again to his talk? I’m discovering some new rhythms and places of prayer here in Lansdown (Acts 16. 13-16). If I can do that, I know you can discover that too!
Thank you for sharing the different stories, reflections, pictures, prayers and news; keep it coming. It is really appreciated by the wider church when we have the courage to share and give to each other and it helps us to keep connected in this season. Enclosed are the documents for our service ‘As One at 10” on Sunday and a news sheet. The digging deeper options are found below too. Looking forward to our journey to Easter day with a different sense of drama and anticipation this year. Chaos and the coronavirus are not the last word!! Easter week is always a special week, but try and make some more time for God this week on your own, it is not time wasted. Here is the Zoom link for the daily scheduled - 'Join the Journey - Morning Reflection'- please click here to join us this week.
Meeting ID: 907 134 0093
With our thanks for your love and prayers
Tim and the staff team