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A pastoral letter from the Rev’d Terry Clark

We’ll meet again

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

So says the Apostle John to his friend Gaius in the Bible’s shortest book (3 John). I guess a sentiment many of us could echo six weeks into lockdown. John and Gaius didn’t even have the benefit of phones, Skype or WhatsApp. And a letter (written on a papyrus scroll) could take months to arrive.

A face to face meet is special and when we can get out and about again, perhaps we will appreciate that all the more. I miss seeing you, my church family at Lostock and at Deane.

What we can do, even in lockdown is pray and over recent weeks I’ve heard from various members of the Lostock and Deane church family of how their prayer life has gone up a gear in the face of coronavirus and lockdown. Our 40:40 prayer challenge (now on Day 25) with its regular prayer helps has been an encouragement for many who were able to take on that extra prayer commitment.

John says to Gaius

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually.

It is good to be reminded to pray for good physical and mental health. Some Christians get it into their heads that it’s wrong to pray for this, or that we should only be praying for spiritual stamina. The Bible says that we should pray for both. God nowhere promises perfect health or a problem free life in this world. But the whole of the Bible speaks of a loving Creator who is kind and gracious, calling us into friendly relationship with himself and providing for our needs, both physically and spiritually. A God who hates death and who through Jesus’ death and resurrection is redeeming his people, Christ-followers, out of death into new life.

In lockdown and lacking our usual human contact, we can become more than usually inward looking. We can also beat ourselves up with guilt for what we are not doing. Our ‘natural’ temperaments can be magnified.

This makes it all the more important in these days that we keep reminding ourselves of the big picture. Of God’s character, of what he has won for us at Calvary, of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, of his provision for us in this world and in the next, of our destination: Paradise.

God knows our struggles, frustrations and anxieties and is right here with us on the journey. And he delights in hearing his children talk to him.

In his third letter, John highlights the importance of supporting Christian missionaries, and commends Gaius and others for doing so. Let’s be praying for all who are at the frontline of sharing the best news in the world, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in these extraordinary times. Could we especially pray for Andrew Moody, a Crosslinks mission partner serving the Lord among South Sudanese refugees in Uganda? And here in the UK, with so many asking big questions about life and death that they wouldn’t normally ask, let’s pray for all of us to be ready and willing to share something of the Gospel hope that we know for ourselves.

This Friday is the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies in World War II. 8th May 1945 was almost a year on from D-Day, 6th June 1944. A year of struggle and fierce fighting. Yet the tide of the war turned when the allies landed at Normandy. Not even Hitler’s ‘best’ commanders on his Western Front (Rommel, von Rundstedt and Model for instance) could hold the back the Allies’ advance. And Hitler’s V1 and V2 weapons of terror during 1944-45 could not break the British spirit and resolve to win. The decisive blow had been struck on 6th June 1944.

But for those Allied prisoners of war in German POW camps, they were still in occupied territory. As news about the D-day landings and allied advances got through however, the prisoners knew that it was only a matter of time before they would be liberated.

We live in a world where so often it can seem that the old enemy of God’s people the devil has the upper hand. We can look around at all the injustices, suffering and death and perhaps be tempted to wonder if God really does have the upper hand here.

When Jesus died and rose again, he struck the mortal blow against the devil, against death and the hold which sin has on people. It was D-day! No turning back. We still live in a world occupied by the enemy. Sin, the world and the devil can still very much influence our lives, but their end and ultimate and total surrender are in sight: when Jesus returns in judgement to take us his people home, to our true home: Paradise. Finally liberated!

We can look forward with hope and joy because we can look back to the empty cross and the empty tomb.

This weekend, we start a new Sunday series on our YouTube Channel (Go to YouTube and search for ‘Deane Lostock’) in the book of Acts, as we think about the giving of the Holy Spirit to all believers. God’s empowering presence, to be with us as we await that final liberation. God is very much with his people, now and always. However isolated we may feel, we are not on our own. God himself, the Spirit of Jesus, is with us. More closely than perhaps we realise.

John ends his letter

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

Beccy and I and all on the Deane-Lostock staff and pastoral team send you our greetings.

Peace to you in Jesus’ name.

Terry
6th May 2020