It is good in the middle of the week to stop and take stock of how we are getting on. Our country and our world has changed beyond recognition in the last two weeks. There are genuine and natural anxieties about what will happen in the future.
The truth is that no-one knows how the Covid-19 crisis will develop in the United Kingdom –if we as a nation are careful and follow the guidance issued to us. We can only be certain what will happen if we do nothing to avert the crisis growing and that is a reality we want to avoid.
I am deeply grateful to all those who are reaching out and taking care of others. In the last few days I have heard some accounts of beautiful acts of kindness by individuals seeking to encourage others at such a difficult time.
We hear many stories in the media of extreme greed and hoarding of goods by a minority of people, but instead they ought to focus more on other people who of all faiths and none are seeking to support and assist others.
I want to say a huge thank you to each one of you who have encouraged others at this time in a whole host of different practical ways. I hope in the near future to report on some important community developments in our city to assist those particularly hard hit by this crisis, but at the moment all I can say is that there are a lot of planning meetings being held by the City Council to prepare for the coming months. This will be a similar pattern in cities across our country and indeed around the world.
Last week I encouraged us to set aside an hour on Wednesdays for prayer and Bible reflection (possibly 7:30-8:30pm or some other convenient time) and I provided a Bible passage with some comments and questions to follow before we turned to pray for each other and for those in our wider community and indeed in wider world.
Our passage today is from Joshua 1:1-9:
After the death of Moses the servant of theLord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 2 ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates – all the Hittite country – to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.
5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.7 ‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
1.The context of Joshua’s calling (Joshua 1:1-2a) After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 2 ‘Moses my servant is dead…’
It was an earthshattering moment in the Israelite community. The nation formed out of a loose collection of tribal groups forty years earlier had been rescued from a life of traumatic enslavement and given an opportunity to work out how to relate together as free people.
The books of Exodus and Numbers record the less than satisfactory relationships within their ranks as they struggled to adapt to their new situation. However, eventually, their new identity as the nation of Israel took shape and they prepared themselves for the next step of faith. But once more in a very different place the new reality began with some unpleasant news: ‘Moses my servant is dead…’
In the same way as we gather to reflect on this passage in our own homes we come with our sense of loss – loss of the security of a routine we had come to value; loss of the certainty of knowing what a day let alone a week may bring; loss for some of jobs and income; for others a loss of health – whatever it may be none of us today is in a comfortable place.
2. The nature of Joshua’s calling (Joshua 1:2b-5)
(a)The necessity of action (Joshua 1:2b-3) Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give to them – to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. They had to prepare as well as they could for the next stage of their journey: get ready to cross… I will give you every place where you set your foot… They had plenty of work to do to make a success of their new situation.
I thank God for those who have worked hard in our congregation in all manner of ways to help each other prepare for the next few months of our lives together. Many of us have had to learn how to join and use new forms of technology, for many like me this is a work in (slow) progress! Others will already have been more comfortable with it.
I want to say a big thank you to those who have helped others with technology. I am thankful too for those who have taken time to check on the needs of others in our communities and ensured that everyone is taken care of. There is still work to do, but we are trying to get ready.
(b) The assurance of God’s presence (Joshua 1:5) No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. If you have had moments of feeling overwhelmed with the scale of what needs to be done –‘join the club’. We feel acutely aware of NHS staff preparing to the best of their abilities for demands on their services beyond any previous year since the NHS began. However, in other ways each of us will have our moments of tears, of panic, exhaustion – in such a time as this remember this wonderful assurance from the Lord I will be with you…
3. The resources for Joshua’s calling (Joshua 1:6-9)
‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
What is required? Character it will be tough, it will take real courage to keep going – for some of us it may be the toughest time of our lives so far.
Bible-based The principles of God’s Word on which we reflect are the foundations on which we live. Despite some severe pressures we will resolve to be men and women, young and old, who are people of integrity who will honour God in the carrying out of our duties, maintaining the faith convictions we profess and nourishing our lives through what God says to us through the Bible. Don’t neglect to spend some time –even if it is only a few minutes some days to keep a sense of perspective through meditating on God’s Word.
Personal Reflection: What am I most afraid of at this time? Name it in your prayers to God
What attempts will I make this week to encourage some one else?
Points for Prayer
I am thankful to Gary our Youth Pastor for providing the Prayer points for today
• Pray particularly for the Governments; Boris Johnson & Nicola Sturgeon, for much wisdom & courage. For all the various government departments – financial, medical, scientific, social – in coping with the pandemic.
• Pray for everyone so affected – in particular those bereaved and in self-isolation. Also for all of us as we come to terms with social isolation the “new normal”
• Pray for families struggling to cope with home schooling, enable them to see what is important in terms of family cohesion.
• Pray for the strain on marriage relationships.• Pray for families who are really struggling financially. We think in particular of those self-employed, like some of our families in our church – that you will be their provider.
• Pray and give thanks for our NHS – at last, a time to stop bashing them – but instead appreciating them. Pray protection over all NHS Staff – in particular we remember those in our church fellowship in various health and social care roles.
• Pray for us as church – that we will all be “Looking to Christ”, pray for wisdom for Brian & the Deacons, for Claire as she helps and supports the pastoral care, in particular for the most vulnerable in our church.
• Pray for Gary and the Youth Ministry Team in keeping the young people connected with each other and with God.
• Pray for our young people – coming to terms with “social distancing”, and many facing uncertainty with schooling, exams and higher education – that through our “iGnite Live!” groups, they can support each other, build their faith and reach out to their friends.
• Pray for us as a church, that “as the world grows darker the light of Jesus will shine brightly” through us.
• Pray for God to bring revival, and that people will see their need of God and salvation.