Hi everyone, Christy here:
It's hard to believe that just last week we were enjoying each other's company and sharing in such a special service together. In a matter of days the world as we knew it changed drastically. One evening as we sat trying to escape it all in front of the TV, my husband, Nick, commented that it felt like our lives had become a TV programme and the TV programmes had become our old, familiar "real" world.
Whichever reality we find ourselves in, all human experience exists within the context of an all-encompassing reality - God's - and therein lies great comfort, for nothing is beyond His knowledge and control.
Lord, we know each person is precious to you, and not a single one is hidden from your sight. While we might not be able to meet together with your church in person today, we know you are with each of us in our homes and in our hearts. It is so good to turn our thoughts to you this morning and know that you are in, around, above, and below us - we are completely immersed in you! You are the giver of life and the restorer of faith, so please cleanse us in this moment from all our anxieties, frustrations, careless words, and wrong choices, leaving us only with what is good and from you. As we simply breathe in and out, help us to be mindful of breathing in your life-giving presence, and breathing out all that drains us of your beautiful and fulfilling life.
In our preparation for Easter, we've been looking at the final sayings of Jesus. Last week Keith reflected on what Jesus showed us about the importance of family in the way he took care of his mother's needs. All kinds of family are important, including church family, but the needs of blood family must come first or the needs of all other kinds of family will suffer. Keith also reflected on how grief was the price that Mary paid for loving Jesus as she watched him suffer and die - but what joy was to follow in his resurrection and life! Often grief is a cost we must pay for loving God and others too, but always the rewards are far, far greater than the price, most of which has been paid by God.
This week, Keith shares some thoughts on Jesus' final words to his heavenly Father in Matthew 27: 45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
As family, friends and colleagues have been in contact throughout this week to inform us of changes to holidays, weddings, dinners, businesses, schools, and church plans we've experienced a growing sense of disappointment, loss and isolation. I know I am not the only one who has been rising early with an eager desire to go and jump into my Lord's lap for a good dose of reassurance!
And it has come - through bible readings, books, calls from friends, messages from family, fun with my music students in figuring out online lessons, and even a surprise bunch of flowers left on our doorstep by our neighbours. Most of all, in the times when I've been able to truly quiet my mind and focus on listening to God, it has come through a quiet assurance in my spirit that the Lord knows the best way forward and we are to listen to, trust in, and act on what He shows us.
Even as my family look back at things God seems to have been saying and doing, there is such an uncanny sense that he has been preparing us for what was coming. On our home front, business had been tough for Nick for quite some time. Then he got a good contract that paid well, which has just come to an end. "Be careful, I am giving you just enough for what you'll need in the coming months," I sensed the Lord saying as we started to breathe a sigh of relief. Now there are suddenly almost no work prospects and like thousands of others, we find ourselves feeling fearful of what will become of us, our family, neighbours and friends. But we are clinging to that funny little sense that has been returning to us repeatedly for the past few months - "you will have what you need, just don't waste what I give you". Perhaps he is saying the same to you?
If the Lord loves us this much, we know that we can bring every need, great or small, to share with him. Sarah Smith has prepared these prayers for s and we would encourage you, once you have read them, to take time to add your own, either quietly with the Lord, or with all of us in the comments sections at the end of this blog:
Prayers for Sunday 22nd March 2020
Lord you have said in your Word ‘ never will I leave you, never will I forsake you ’ - have mercy on us as we live through these uncertain times...
We ask that you protect us from the spread of the corona virus and we pray for those in our community who may feel vulnerable and scared.
We pray for those who are physically vulnerable through age or infirmity; for those who are financially insecure and worried about needing to take time off from work; for those who have lost their jobs; for those in unsafe homes who are forced to stay home with people they are afraid of; for those who do not have family or friends and are facing this situation alone; for parents who feel overwhelmed at the prospect of homeschooling and a summer indoors. Would you make us mindful of the needs of others, willing to step out and be your hands and feet, Father, so that people may know they are loved and need not be afraid.
We pray for political leaders responding to the crisis and bearing the responsibility of trying to keep us safe.
We thank you, and we pray, for all health care workers and social workers, for their strength and resilience at this time.
May we know the truth that your perfect love casts out fear.
On this Mothering Sunday we acknowledge, and thank you, for our mothers, for the care they have provided. We pray for all children and young people in care and for those who look after them, that they will all receive the support they need, and that they would know, and feel, the love that is theirs through you. Comfort, Father, those for whom this day is painful.
Father, we thank you that you are a God who provides, and that we are able to provide practical help by way of food to our Hayling Holiday Lunch families through the generosity of those in our churches and community. You have blessed this project in so many ways. Give us wisdom to know how, where they may not know you, we can bless them with the knowledge of your great love for them, and how we can pray for them; would you provide opportunities to build on our relationships when we deliver the food.
We pray for those known to us who are unwell and suffering in body, mind or spirit, remembering particularly Jan and the family as they care for her mother while dealing with their own health challenges; Andy who is facing another heart operation on Friday; Vicky, whose operation had to be cancelled and is seeking a diagnosis on a new perpetual pain in her side - we pray for your healing touch and a peace that passes all understanding.
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.
One can't escape the irony in the way our isolating is uniting us globally in a fight against a common threat; in the way a disease that is threatening humans is bringing healing to a planet; in the way an invisible virus has done more to free political and religious prisoners this week than any human pressures achieved; in how families that often don't get to spend much time together are being given an extremely generous opportunity to bond. Our older generations are often forgotten, but much of what we are doing now is being done specifically because we've realised just how much we cherish them! I don't know about you, but it sure looks to me like the Lord is doing all kinds of good things from the personal to the global for which we can be thankful. Once again we're reminded that "all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28), so keep on seeking his purpose for you daily and keep an eye out for opportunities to bless others.
This song was shared by my friend and fellow worship leader, Katie. It's lyrics are indeed encouraging (in the sense of imparting courage) and we leave this with you until we meet again next Sunday.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
Do feel free to share your own reflections, scriptures, songs, prayers and words of encouragement in the comments section below.