This will be an Easter like never before. The most important event in the Church Year and we cannot attend Church! Nevertheless, I hope that you will take time to celebrate it properly.
To help do this there will be 2 video sessions this week. The first will be for Good Friday when we will present the Litany along with a Good Friday sermon. The second will be for Easter Day when we will have a simple Lords Supper along with the sermon. The Lords Supper will not be from the Prayer Book but will be based on the principle that Jesus established – that of a memorial. Please have bread or biscuits and a drink available – it does not need to be wine. Jesus and his disciples drank what would normally be used for their meal, so feel free to substitute whatever drink you feel comfortable with. The sermon will be about the resurrection.
We make a big fuss at Christmas but Easter often takes a backseat. Lots of traditions have grown up around Christmas and they make it fun – but they also hide the more serious message. It is interesting to note that during the Commonwealth period in England (1649 – 1660) the celebration of Christmas was banned. This was because it had become a celebration that left out the real meaning of the season. I wonder how those who did this would react to what we do today. The essence of the Gospel is the Easter story and Satan loves it when we focus elsewhere. It should be the central celebration of the Christian calendar.
The central Easter event is the resurrection. But it is merely the crowning glory of what went before. The Cross provided our salvation. Jesus willingly went to the Cross on our behalf. There he bore upon himself our sin and paid the penalty for it. As a result we can be forgiven completely for our sin, made right with our God and guaranteed entry into heaven. No other religion offers this. As Christians we have the only real explanation for how a sinner could become righteous enough to fellowship with God. That is why the claim of Jesus is unique – “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except by me.” Satan’s hold over us was broken forever. Satan still has a place in the Creation which explains why bad things happen – never more obvious than in this crisis – but his power over us is broken because the Cross represented his defeat. And we are able to restrict his power in our life because we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us – a result of the resurrection.
The resurrection is the greatest miracle in history. Jesus died, was buried and then came back from the dead. He appeared to many people before ascending into heaven to sit at God’s right hand to await our arrival. The reality is that the resurrection allows us to have Jesus with us all day, every day – something that even the disciples didn’t have.
I cannot understand how it is possible to not be amazed at God’s love at this time. The Easter story never ceases to move me to renew my commitment to serving my Saviour. I hope that this Easter, with so much extra time for reflection, we will all read the story again and again be moved by the incredible love and mercy of our God.
We had our first ZOOM Prayer Meeting last Thursday. There were a few hiccups as we got used to the technology but it went well with about 20 participants. Thanks to Annie for setting this up and we will do this each Thursday at 7.30pm. Please join us. If you need help setting it up please contact Annie at the church office.
I have again added an article from Peter Brain the former Bishop of Armidale. I found it helpful and I think you will to. Peter and his wife retired to Western Australia and these reflections were a result of a request from the Minister where they worship. Peter wrote a book to help clergy keep healthy spiritually, mentally and physically. This Diocese asks all ordination candidates to read it. I had the privilege of preparing a study guide for it at Peter’s request. I will continue to send you any reflections that Peter writes at this time.
If you have kids and want to keep them occupied, Alison Cooper has passed on to me a very helpful site. Type in “Kids Talks With Colin Buchanan” and it will take you to some interesting material that will both help and fascinate your kids. Pass this on to family and neighbours – it is an important Gospel resource.
Keep safe and healthy and have a very happy Easter.
REFLECTIONS 2020/2 Self isolation need not be isolating!
I wonder how you are going with the enforced isolation? This ‘cabin fever’ should not surprise us since we are social creatures. This is evidenced by the whole range of relationships that God has so kindly given us (marriage, friendships, neighbours, siblings, parents, fellow citizens, work colleagues, shop keepers, caring people-professionals and mates, tradies, advisers, teachers, students [I expect after a while teachers will miss their students!], acquaintances, and the list could go on.
There are many, through no fault of their own, who have already been schooled in social isolation, along with some who have chosen it, but they and we, who are used to many daily encounters, may need to make special efforts to cope, indeed thrive, in what is being described as ‘the new normal”. Here are some ways, that the old normal ways of discipleship, might benefit us and others.
(i) The disciplines of what was once called the “quiet time” (personal Bible reading and prayer) keep us in touch with our gracious Father, who alone is able to fully understand and be with us, every hour, anywhere and in every circumstance. The great old hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” reminds us of how much “peace we often forfeit and what needless pain we bear, all because we do not take it to the Lord in Prayer”. A by-product of prayer is that we can travel to other nations, and homes, without being concerned about social distancing! Today I had the joy of visiting Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Egypt, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Bulgaria and Uganda. No expense and no fear of the virus. We are never isolated from God and others when we take in God’s word and pray.
(ii) The telephone, email, letters and zoom give us wonderful opportunities to say “hello, how are you going/feeling, coping?” Here is a way of imitating Jesus (Who has been described as God’s love letter to humankind) by taking the initiative and moving toward others. Here we are able to fulfil, at least in part, our responsibility of showing the practical love our Lord spoke of in Matthew 25:37-40 and proving His promised blessing of Acts 20:35. Of course this may open us to some costly actions like buying and delivering some food etc. but there has always been a cost (as presently for our nurses, doctors, shop assistants, police, PM and garbage collectors) to real love (as with the Samaritan of Luke 10 and the faithful of Hebrews 13:13 who opened themselves up to sharing prison through identification and the unexpected but real blessing of entertaining angels unaware.
(iii) Perhaps the most important ministry and discipline that we must continue, or establish if we have become neglectful, is that of praying for the conversion of others and being prepared to speak to them about their commitment to Christ. The immediate epidemic is serious but nowhere near as serious as ‘dying suddenly and unprepared’ by not trusting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Jesus warnings, promises and gracious prescriptions in Luke 13:3-5; Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:16-18,36, 6:35-40, 10:7-18, 27-30 remain true, as does the minimum expectation about our testifying, commended in 1 Peter 3:15 ‘but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ Our respect for our friend’s eternity requires us to not confuse gentleness with fear. A W Tozer wrote ‘that a scared world requires a fearless church’=each church member (quoted by Will Graham in a letter from the Billy Graham Association 31/3/2020).
It has been said that ‘man’s extremity is God’s opportunity’. Here is our opportunity to not only overcome our own isolation (and fear) in time, but through prayer and kindly concern, seek to introduce others to the Saviour, whose own chosen isolation from His Father, which we will recall again on Good Friday (Matthew 27:45-46), was for the purpose that no one should ever experience isolation from God, either now in time or for eternity.
Peter Brain April, 2nd, 2020