29 March 2020
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
These words from "The Screwtape Letters", written in wartime by C. S. Lewis (author of the Narnia books) capture so vividly what we are experiencing at this point in history. While it is always the case that "heaven and hell are at work in the same events but to different ends" (Joni Earekson-Tada), at a time when we are all thrown together on the same side of one battle, we can perhaps share insight on the good and evil these unique circumstances are working in and around us like never before.
Today Katie, Alan and Nick will lead us in our service:
Hi everyone, Katie here
I come to share worship with you all in what seems like an almost surreal week for everyone: a week where the peace of God can seem difficult to find amongst all of the chaos. However, we still seek it daily, despite how hard it is sometimes to see what God's big plan in all of this could possibly be.
My fiancé and I have had to postpone our wedding, which has been heart-breaking. Yet we are so aware of what some people are going through at the moment that may be far harder to deal with. So we are choosing to count our blessings.
Thoughts cross my mind, like: How many people will turn to God? How many people will turn to anger? And how many people will come through this with their faith shaken but built on more solid ground than before? This is why I love the next two songs I want to share with you: “when we see you, we find strength to face the day,” and, “I will trust the promise, you will carry me safe to shore,” are the kind of lyrics that are helping me to find that solid ground.
So many of these awesome songs are filling my head at the moment, and also those of my christian friends. It almost feels like some of them were written for this very time! Psalm 23 from The Message also seems so perfect for our current worries:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through the valley of death, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.
‘You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.’ This is a sentence that at the moment seems vital for us all to cling to, allowing it to restore our souls as we recognise our Shepherd is in control, and to fill us with hope that he is able to bring us out of this scary world situation we find ourselves in now.
This week we follow on our Lent sermon series with Alan preaching from John 19:28
Later, knowing everything had now been finished, and so that scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said “I am thirsty.”
Indeed, at this time we too find ourselves thirsting - for God's reassurance, presence, forgiveness, comfort, healing, love, peace... The timing of these world events seems strangely fortuitous in that they coincide with Lent - a period in the Christian calendar when many fast in preparation for Easter. Fasting is the act of refraining from various worldly pursuits or pleasures to make space for times of less hurried, deeper study and prayer. You are invited to do just that as we pray these prayers that Nick has prepared for us:
Father your word says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6). We come before you this morning in gratitude, but also with heavy hearts, as we lift up our prayers to you:
We pray for the Grey Family as they mourn the loss of Jan’s mum this week. We pray that you will enfold them all in your love and that you will ease their pain and help them to remember that Jan’s mum is now with you.
We pray for Andy and the Keen family. We thank you for bringing Andy through his heart surgery safely and we ask that you continue to be with him and the rest of the family during his recovery. We ask that you also keep him safe from the COVID-19 virus.
We pray for Claire and the many NHS workers. Father, we can only imagine how difficult it must be for them during this time as they put themselves at risk each day to help the infected and the vulnerable people in our community, yet still have to watch some of them die… We pray for strength for them in this overwhelmingly difficult time. We ask that you continue to hold them all in your hands and protect their bodies, and also their minds and spirits, as they face each day’s challenges.
We pray for all the countries around the world dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic uncertainty caused by its spread. We pray for their leaders and we ask that you guide them and grant them wisdom to make the right decisions for everyone to contain the further spread of the virus. We also pray that you will be with their healthcare workers and all essential workers - that you will grant them the numbers, strength, and courage needed to work during this time.
We pray for our leaders here in the UK, our Prime Minister and some cabinet members having contracted the virus. We ask that you grant them a speedy recovery and that the UK would not suffer any further economic turmoil through the loss of any key leaders as a result of this virus.
We pray for the US and its leaders. They currently have the highest recorded infection numbers of any country. We ask that you watch over them and grant them wisdom and courage to manage this situation, and for them to be able to make the right decisions for their people.
Lord, so much of what is on people’s minds these days is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that it has had on so many people – loss of life, loss of income and uncertainty of when things will return to “normal” again. Even amidst all of this we are seeing unbelievable blessings from you all around us. We are seeing strangers/neighbours coming together to help each other; families able to spend time together without mum or dad needing to rush off anywhere. We are seeing the earth breathing a sigh of relief at the reduction in all the rubbish that we throw at it through industry and travelling. Eyes are being opened to the fragility of life and the wonders that you have placed in this earth for us to enjoy – the sunrise and sunset, quiet walks or bike rides along streets, beaches and parks with only the sound of birds, waves crashing, or the wind blowing.
Father, we thank you for this time of rest for some of us and we pray that you will bring about much needed times of rest for the frontline workers who have been called to protect and serve the community in this time of need.
Help us to draw close to you, to open ourselves to you and to be acutely aware of your leading as you direct us on how to pray, and care, for one another in any way we can while respecting the restrictions currently in place for our protection.
We pray all these things in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, knowing that he is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. Amen.
I never realised how much I treasure hugging my church family on a Sunday morning - I have a feeling that there are lots of things we won’t be taking for granted when we reach the other side of this. With church gatherings being cancelled and our time of worship together being taken away suddenly, these snippets of church are exactly what we need - a feeling of being together in spirit even though we can’t be together in body. There are churches taking communion and still managing to hold their home group meetings over Skype, which just goes to show, our heart for worship can always find a way to express itself and need not wane. So I leave you with a final song: it’s called "Raise a Hallelujah", and the lyrics really do speak for themselves.
Love and blessings, Katie xx
(Please feel free to leave any thoughts or prayers that today's service has raised for you at the very bottom of this page.)