All Saints Highertown

Pastoral Update - Lockdown 2.0

I’m sure you have all heard the news that we will be entering another period of lockdown from Thursday of this week. It will mean that places of worship will be closed, unless for funerals and individual prayer. Or for essential support services such as foodbanks or for some support groups.

So as before All Saints will remain open – for foodbank, for acts 435, and for funerals and for individual prayer.

I know that for many this period of lockdown will be more difficult than the last. For others it will feel like more of the same. Either way it will be tough. But I want to encourage you. This will pass. And in the meantime, I pray that we can each hold to three truths. The love, peace and victory of Christ.

There are many examples of people in the bible having to either self-isolate or forcibly isolate from others. And in all cases their strength came from their life in Christ, and their faith in God.

Paul writes in Romans 8:31-end that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’. Not only is the letter itself a demonstration of how one copes with being separated from the community they love. Indeed, the very need to write a letter emphasises a longing to be closer. But Paul also draws comfort from the truth that Christ is with us and that his love will overcome anything that seeks to separate us. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.
The love, peace and victory of Christ will keep us.

After the death of Jesus, the disciples self-isolated out of fear and desire for self-preservation. John 20:19-29 shows how Jesus, raised from the dead, miraculously found a way into the locked room and then announced peace to them all. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, but also that nothing can separate us from the peace of Christ – not a lockdown room, not a locked down church, not a locked down country.
The love, peace and victory of Christ will keep us.

During his ministry Paul was under arrest for about five years. Although about two and a half years of this period is spent in a literal prison cell, the rest is spent either under house arrest or being escorted by a Roman soldier from Jerusalem to Rome. His second letter to the Thessalonians reminds the church in hiding there to seek every opportunity to give Christ the glory in what they do. He prays:
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The love, peace and victory of Christ will keep us.

My thoughts over the last week have turned to the people of Israel taken into captivity in Babylon about 600 years before Christ.
Many of us will know Psalm 137 – by the rivers of Babylon. The psalmist asks ‘How shall we sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land?’ With no temple. But then, word comes from the prophet Jeremiah who says, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Settle….; plant..; find your family…. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

And then we have those wonderful words of hope from Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29). And suddenly, a situation that seemed hopeless becomes hopeful as the people realise that their God has not left them at all, that he is very much with them in their struggle.

And this is my prayer, that we will all know that God is with us in this. This virus will pass – and God will remain.

In this time I will be praying that we remain united in our endeavour to suppress the virus, to stay safe – to follow all the relevant guidance from the Government. To be fervent in prayer, to be kind to ourselves, and kind to others.

Do keep in contact with one another, offering prayer and support as needed. These are times for us all to both give and receive. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need.

There are many church members just itching to drop off shopping, collect a prescription, etc. So please don’t be afraid to ask. Let us pray.
Lord God, you are always with us.
You are with us in the day and in the night.
You are with us when we are fearful and when we are fearful.
You are with us when we are healthy and when we are ill.
You are with us when we are peaceful and when we are worried.
Help us to remember that you love us and are with us in everything, and nothing can separate us from your love, peace and victory.

Revd Jeremy Putnam