Dear Church Family,
Greetings in the name of the One who commands us look at the birds of the air.
They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Jesus is not ashamed to use such childlike examples to grow faith in anxious hearts. Perhaps you can hear an avian chorus right now – sparrows or wag-tails chittering outside your window with merry abandon. Or are they effortlessly skipping between branches, or swooping & soaring on wings for the sheer joy of being what they were made to be? Have they crafted nests, without use of hands, into which they now settle snugly for the winter months? And that without fear. They are not held out to us as an example of blissful ignorance – as if the Lord were telling us to consider the ostrich with its head in the ground. Rather, we are told to consider how they sing a constant reminder of the Father’s gracious care. The emphasis is on His love and provision for those who are more valuable to Him than birds. So, in this lockdown, and for whatever follows, remember the words of Christ. Look at the birds of the air…
And let us look also to our hearts. In that same passage of Scripture we are commanded to “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness”. The upheaval around the globe – unsettling the plans and dreams of many – drives us to an examination of priorities, and where they lay. What is of first importance? The Kingdom of Heaven….and His righteousness. This must transcend & moderate all discussion around ‘the lockdown’; especially given that disagreement about its merit is rising in public spaces. Whatever views or opinions we might air or hold to…let us remember that we are to live, and so speak, in a manner fitting for citizens of the Kingdom: quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Given that there has been a two week extension to the lockdown, church activities must proceed as best they are able, under the present arrangements. There may be questions in your mind along the lines of: “But what if the lockdown continues for still longer in May or beyond?” or “Which ministries could we even safely/prudently resume once the lockdown is ended?”; or a host of other scenarios relating to church life (business meetings, communion, evening services, funerals, budgets, voting, etc). We acknowledge that these matters will have to be addressed at the appropriate time. Some bridges may only be crossed as we come to them, and so we have to patiently endure until the providence of God is plain to us.
Yet the good news is that – quite apart from all the add-ons – we may continue to focus on the simplest things that make for a church. Namely, we can hear & study the Word, be in prayer to the Lord, and strengthen & support one another through regular interaction (mostly in the digital/telephonic sphere). Have you considered this – that the Lord has temporarily filtered out from us many of those other activities which (though good in and of themselves) might easily give the appearance of ‘life’ without actually being evidence of it? We might hustle and bustle between church meetings and in church responsibilities….and yet abandon our first love in the process. Now the strength of commitment is being tested. Now the true measure of our love for one another and for Christ is more fully known. Are we a church…or a preaching centre for those with an intellectual interest in the Bible? Are we a church…or a social club for catchup & tea? Are we a church…or an organization of industrious busy-bodies looking to appear active? Are we a church…or a Sunday religious substitute to sooth the conscience of a week’s neglect of God? Can we be simply what we’re meant to be, in love for Christ and His people? Or are we dependent on…other things?
So far, as elders, we have been largely encouraged by the level of interactions in the church, and the eagerness with which many are looking to ‘be a church’. Thank you, and please keep it up, and do not lesson your efforts. Spur others on by your continued example, and awaken those for whom three weeks of lockdown has meant a stagnation of their faith & church life. Remember the appeal from this past Sunday – try to call at least one person a day with a view to encouraging & praying for them. There are some who are lonely even in the best of times. Seek them in love. And seek God, in prayer.
Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. And, looking to the birds of the air…pray for us also, that we would do the same.
Martin, Winton, Shane & Andrew