By Stephen Curtis, Students and Young Adults Minister.
Well the world has gone a bit mad!
I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels a weird sort of anti climax? For many of us this spring/summer period represented the ending to a phase in our lives and all of that planning and excitement has been swept away. End of year shows have been cancelled, uni ended without ceremony or closure, exams postponed, job interviews cancelled and huge questions about the next phase in our lives have suddenly appeared.
It can feel a bit strange and even selfish to be worried about those sorts of things during a pandemic, but it’s normal and that’s exactly how I feel too. I’ve been at St John’s for three years and I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend another service before I leave in the Summer.
There’s a lot to mourn about our changed lives right now. And that doesn’t even mention the Coronavirus itself and how massive that is!
So it’s all weird, it’s all up in the air and there are a lot of conflicting feelings going around.
At times like these two negative things might happen to our faith. We might set it aside, put it in a draw and fill our minds with worry. Sometimes it seems to me like my faith and my fear can’t be present in my mind at once. Alternatively, we might forget the purpose of our faith (relationship with Jesus) and look to Him just as a source of power.
A great piece of scripture that talks about this can be found in Luke chapter 8 verses 43 to 48
43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
I love this story and I think it challenges both the problems I mentioned earlier.
To those of us (including myself) who are tempted to set our faith away and let our fear rule over us this woman is a fantastic example! For twelve years she’s been bleeding, something has gone seriously wrong with her body. The situation is worse than the physical problem though because the strict hygiene laws at the time meant that she was considered ritually unclean, she was untouchable, unknowable, barely human.
This nameless woman has so much more right to be angry then we do. She’s lived through isolation and hatred for twelve years. It would be totally understandable for her to give up hope and fill her mind and life with worry and pain and fear.
Yet she reaches out.
From fear she reaches out her hand to the hem of Christ’s cloak. From fear her faith brings her a miracle. So too can ours, we don’t need to put away our relationship with Jesus to make room for worry. Instead we can follow this great example and use the fear as a way to increase our faith, deepen our relationship and grasp onto the edge of God’s own cloak.
But the story doesn’t end there. The wonderful thing about scripture is that it never ends with a person reaching out to God, he always reaches back.
Because he stops and looks for the woman.
Jesus wasn’t satisfied with a mere miracle. He’s just changed this woman’s life, brought her back from the edge of society, saved her from a form of living death and yet he isn’t satisfied. Because a mere miracle is never the point. Jesus doesn’t perform a magic trick then run. No he brings this woman back from virtual death to life and now he wants to share that life with her. In other words, he wants a relationship with her.
God performs miracles not for the sake of showing off but to bring his people to him. That’s what he did for this woman and what he does for us. So when we pray for his provision, when we pray for his blessing, when we pray for his healing let’s first pray for his presence with us in this crazy, scary time.
That’s all very well but what does it actually mean practically?
It means that at this time when the world slows and our hearts are full of fear we are called to courage and to deepen our relationship with God.
So below are just a few resources that I and other people have found useful to strengthen our own relationship with God that you can use from your own homes.
- The Bible Project, this is a fantastic series and highly recommended! These guys give an overview of every book in the Bible before diving into some key themes. Why not start from Genesis and work your way forward? Each video is only about 10 minutes long.
- St John’s Hoxton back catalogue. There’s a crazy amount of our own old talks online! To be honest I would mostly recommend the ones by that hilarious and wise tall guy Stephen (Graham’s a good second place.)
- Soul Survivor. Great church, great talks! These guys are really great at making scripture entertaining and opening up every part of our lives to God.
- Tim Kellar. Slightly longer and dryer then you might be used to but a serious amount of Bible knowledge and wisdom packed in there.
- HTB Church. All round brilliant. Probably a good middle ground between the Soul Survivor style and the Tim Kellar style. Expect great content and the spirit.
Prayer and Spirituality
- Dirty Glory by Pete Greig, this book changed my life!
- Everyday Supernatural by Andy Croft and Mike Pilivachi, this book changed John’s life (so maybe skip it?
- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazero, really great challenge for us all to change how we live, also the book we used as the basis for our evening service preaching series after Christmanss.
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Marc Commer, a brilliant call for us to make time for God in our lives, the book we’ve been using for the Lent Series.
- Bible for Everyone by John Goldengay and NT Wright, a great series that opens up each book of the Bible without being overly academic.
- Lectio 365 - from Pete Greig. Great daily meditation on a passage of scripture. Uses an ancient practice to look deeply into a text.
- Daily Prayer - church of England. This is the official prayer app from the CofE. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it provides great content, prayers and big chunks of scripture.
- Live from Rest - Lucinda Smith. This is a new one to me but it’s been highly recommended. A great Christian Meditation App that focuses on how to ‘be’ rather than rush around ‘doing.’
Most importantly though this is a great opportunity for our church to grow stronger! I hope you’ve heard one of the catch phrases at St John’s ‘by everyone, for everyone.’ It’s one of the core things we believe; that we are all called to serve each other, to love each other and to know each other. So let’s take this opportunity to grow stronger in our relationship with each other. Here are a couple of ideas that might help.
- Connect group is still up and running! We will still meet online every Wednesday at 7pm. Join in! Send me an email or a text if you want to find out more.
- Call, text, facetime, skype each other! Now’s the time to reach out and build relationships with people. Netflix can wait for a bit.
- Prayer triplets or partners are a great way to help each other. They’re a simple way of getting a small group together to talk and pray for each other. If you want to set one up, then go for it! Contact a couple of friends. Or send me an email or a text and I can help you set something up.
- Bible studies. Get a couple of mates and spend some time in scripture. If you’re not sure where to start, try watching a Bible Project video and then reading a chapter from the book you’re looking at. Send me an email if you want help.