Paul's letters from lockdown

People following Jesus

Following Jesus

  • Our reading this Sunday comes from Philippians 1:21-30. It opens with the challenging words from Paul’s own life, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."" Paul continues to express how his utmost desire is to die so he can be with Jesus, yet he is convinced that God wants him to live so he can continue his mission to witness to the Gospel and build disciples.
  • I’m guessing for many of us our faith is not yet in a place where we can entirely echo those words of Paul. Yet, as I have ben reflecting on Covid-19 and particularly if I were to die having caught the virus, I realise that in so many ways it would be a gain. Being in the presence of Jesus all the time would be truly wonderful - and I would be able to sing with the whole company of heaven! Yet I would be worried about my family and how they would be able to cope in my absence.
  • When Paul wrote to the Philippians church I don’t think he was expecting all of them to follow his opening words, but as he continues in v27 of the passage he would instruct believers to live lives worthy of the Gospel of Christ. This means, not being scared to show we belong to Christ. It means living out the love of Christ with all those around us, allowing God’s overwhelming grace to be seen through us. But also, to recognise that this life is just a moment in comparison to our eternal future and so i think we should always have one eye on eternity, and as we do this our priorities in this life will change.
  • This is quite a challenge, but following Jesus is a challenge and often in times of crisis this can be even more the case. But we must remember that throughout our lives, in the good times and the bad, Jesus is with us through the Holy Spirit. And it is only through the power of the Spirit working in us that we can ever get near to a faith like Paul. And until that time, I would simply encourage you to keep Jesus at the centre of all you do, so we that our lives witness to Him and God’s glory.

  • Prayer

    Help me God to trust in you. Let me be open to your Holy Spirit transforming my heart, So my priorities are changed to be your priorities. Lead me in the way of the cross, Knowing that you are with me for the whole journey. In your name I pray Jesus.
    Amen.
Stop. Breathe. Start Again!

Breathe

  • This will be my last reflection until September and so it seems pertinent to talk about rest.
  • For many of us, August represents a time of refreshment and hopefully some of us will get to go away on holiday, or will benefit from other people being away! In the church too, August is traditionally a time when we do things a bit differently and try to have a slower pace. This is important, and God recognises the need for rest too as we see in Genesis 2:1-4: "Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done"
  • Whatever work you are doing, for yourself, or for God, I think that we should recognise the example that God gave us to stop, relax and breathe. If God needed it, then I suspect we do too! I know I value rest after working hard, but sometimes it is hard to allow ourself the space to do so. There is always something on our “To Do” list and sometimes we can feel guilty if we stop. Maybe we question why some people have boundless energy and we can’t cope. We are all different, but there are none of us who can continually work without rest.
  • Of course the rest that God encourages doesn’t mean we shut off from Him, instead we may need to find a different way of encountering Him. As we see from our reading above our rest is ideally not just about a break from work, but a rest in his holiness. Often as we allow ourselves to discover God in new ways it can be incredibly refreshing in itself. I am not a big fan of silence, yet in recent years I have found that being silent in God’s presence is incredibly spiritually refreshing.
  • So I would encourage you to rest well, but also to rest with God and be restored in His loving presence.

  • Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    Help me to allow myself to rest in you. Help me to learn to stop and breathe in your presence. Help me to be re-fuelled by your spirit. And as I rest, take away any guilt, and replace it with your peace. In your name, Jesus, I pray.
    Amen.
cleaning a bicycle chain

Clean up

  • I am not a big fan of cleaning, but there is one cleaning job that I particularly enjoy - cleaning my road bikes chain and gears. I take great delight in carefully soaking, scrubbing and drying to make them sparkle and shine. Often I want to take pictures of them looking like this and send it to friends who like cycling - slightly sad I know!
  • Does it matter that I clean my gears? On one level it might be purely about making my bike look good, however, there is a more important reason. Though my bike would be perfectly rideable with dirty components there would be an impact on its performance whilst riding it. The grit and grime that a chain gathers from the road damages the metals, gently wearing them away. The gear changes would be slower and the traction of the chain might be less, both ultimately leading to a slowing down of my pace, and wasted energy! Which is not good when you are trying to achieve personal bests. However, the worst possibility that could happen, is that they rust up and the bike cannot move.
  • I think the same is true for our Christian lives. Our faith can be like gears on a bike, it begins all shiny, new, efficient and effective. We want to tell the world about Jesus, but over time sin starts to clog up those gears. This does not mean our faith disappears, but our spiritual performance starts to drop off. We don’t operate as effectively for God. Our momentum slows down...and perhaps...we...stop...
  • In our recent joint prayer meeting a few people felt God was reminding us of the need to repent and be sanctified (made more holy). And although we have a confession in our services most Sundays, I wonder if God is calling us to a new time of repentance which is not about saying, "yes, God I am back again", but a real acknowledgment of God's holiness and perfection and how we are just so far off the mark? Perhaps as individuals and as churches we are have dirty chains and gears that need to be sorted out for us to go into God’s fresh vision for us?
  • Psalm 24:3-4a reminds us...
  • "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart..."
  • To move forward in this new time of mission, I think God is saying that we need to repent and be renewed by God’s Holy Spirit afresh, so we can power forward for him. How is your chain and gears of faith at the moment?

  • Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    You are so holy and perfect, Help me to become more like you, Not so I look good to those around me, But so I can serve you most effectively. Holy Spirit purify my heart, so I can live for you.
    Amen.
sculpture listening

Always there, always listening

  • This week we have reopened St Paul’s for private prayer. It is great that we are able to do that and much thanks goes to John Tull and Ian Gardener who have helped to develop the risk assessments so we could do it safely. We had role descriptions ready including offering someone who could pray with people if they wanted that. We had some candles lit and some gentle music playing in the background. All good to go!
  • Though it was great that the building is back open, I must say, I felt a bit dejected that no- one came to us. Whilst I was chatting to one of the team, they highlighted that God must feel like this with us sometimes too. He is always there waiting to hear our cries to him, waiting just to be in conversation with us, waiting to be the father who cares for his child.
  • Jer. 29:12 says, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you".
  • 1 John 5:14 says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us".
  • And as with the offer we are making as a church to come and meet God for private prayer is a choice to be made by the community, it is our decision to go to God as his children and take him up on the offer, that he will listen to us.
  • God is always wanting to spend time with his children and listen to their requests for help, their shouts of joy, even their grumblings, but we have to make that step into his presence. But of course the good news is that it doesn’t mean just coming into a church building, our heavenly father is everywhere and we can speak to him anywhere. As I said in my talk on Sunday, God is the God of the unexpected.
  • So this week, I would encourage you to try to seek God in all that you do, in the everyday jobs and in the unusual places: speak to him on your bike; in a cafe; as you’re putting the bins out. God longs to converse with us, but we have to make that choice to talk to him and he is always there.
man running outside as the sun rises

Keep Running the Race

  • Incredibly, though Liverpool won the Premier League title last week, I resisted the urge to even mention them in my sermon for this week, so instead I will mention it in my reflection - please note, non-football fans can still read this!
  • Liverpool have won in record breaking time, with 7 games left to play, and could surpass many different records as they play their final games. Of course Liverpool can now have two attitudes towards this:
  • 1. They can relax and rest on their laurels - everything is sorted, it is done and dusted now, so let’s just relax and not care.
  • 2. They can say, yes we have won, but let’s make this the best victory ever, and show even after the victory that we remain the best team out there.
  • Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool Football Club, after securing the title said, "We are champions, but on the pitch we will behave like we have never won anything before."
  • I believe this completely based on the way Liverpool have played and the team that they have become under Jurgen. He has turned the entire club around.
  • And these same choices are there for Christians too, in the way we live out our faith. Because, as Christians, we believe that Jesus in his death and resurrection secured our eternal salvation - with the victory over, sin, death, and the Devil - and he has won this long before the end of time. With this in mind we can choose to rest on our eternal laurels, bought out of the pain and sacrifice that Jesus went through for us, or we can be hungry to push and see that God is recognised as the victor for as many people as possible.
  • The writer of Hebrews reminds us in chapter 12 v1-3 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
  • How can we do anything but continue to run for God, to continue sharing the love that we have found in Him with others? How can we not want to keep going to show that though we know His victory is secure we want to be seen to live it out now enjoying every moment, until the day when we finally receive our crown? And like Liverpool keep fighting because they look to their manager, so we keep running looking at Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
new leaves sprouting out of the ground

New Beginnings

  • From 4 July we can go to pubs, restaurants and cinemas again along with other exciting changes like being able to go on holiday in the UK. We can even meet for worship, as long as we don’t sing - this could be a challenge for me! I am so thankful that we are finally moving on, but it does raise the question of, “What will the new normal look like?”
  • Eating out and going to the cinema will be different, it won’t be what we are used to…not quite. This has led me to think a bit about the end of the world - not in terms of an apocalyptic Corona-virus meltdown, but what the Bible says will happen with the world as we know it after Jesus re-turns and has dealt with the devil and those who don’t believe in him.
  • Revelation Chapter 21 says: "Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe eve-ry tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.""
  • The world as we know it was always destined to change. Indeed heaven above us will also change, and a new eternal landscape will develop - sadly for those looking forward to cloud surfing you may be disappointed! And it will be amazing because the home of God (His dwelling place) will be among us, as we are told in v3. And as this happens those things of the past that held us back from feeling the fullness of God in our lives: death; mourning; crying and pain, they will be removed as God does a new thing among us, as he makes everything new (v5)!
  • Of course the 4 July probably won’t usher in these end of days new things, but as we begin to venture out from our hibernation and we encounter a new normal, let’s remember also to look for the signs of new things that God is doing and is going to do. Through lockdown it appears that many more people than usual have been engaging with God, so I think we should be seeking Him to see how He will use us, his church, to continue this engagement and see people being drawn into His kingdom.

  • Prayer

    God of new life,
    Breathe your life-giving Spirit into us, So that we can be renewed by you, But also recognise where and how you are working around us. As we venture into the new normal, Guide us and lead us in the new things you have planned.
    Amen.
boxes for moving house

Moving In

  • So we have finally moved into our new home! The old house is nearly all cleaned up and emptied out of the left over junk. A multitude of boxes in the Rectory have been emptied but there are still a good number left. However, we will slowly work through those boxes, although sometimes, inevitably, there will be some boxes left hanging around for weeks, months, sometimes even years!
  • This process of unpacking those last few boxes is important to help us feel established and at home in our new house, but it is so easy to be distracted from it - “Well the hard bit is done, those little bits can wait a while surely?”
  • As I thought about this over the past week it struck me that our own Christians journeys can be like that too. The hard work happens at the beginning, firstly in Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also as we first believe and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour in our lives. At this latter point we often see some immediate things that we need to get sorted out in our lives, some boxes to be emptied if you like. I think it is only as these “spiritual boxes” get emptied that we can truly settle in to our new spiritual home.
  • Of course, as with a physical house move we find that there are some lingering boxes containing things that we just don’t quite know what to do with, perhaps they are memories of the past that we are just not ready to let go of. Perhaps, as we stare into these boxes the things just look so messy inside that we don’t know where to start with it all, and can’t see a way through. Yet we are called to persevere in our faith, drawing nearer to God as we gradually unpack those spiritual boxes. And as we do so we can experience the full healing and power of the cross, trusting in Him who is faithful.
  • Hebrews 10:19-23 tells us… "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
  • Though lockdown is starting to slowly ease, during this time we have had, and still do have, a wonderful opportunity to start unpacking some of those spiritual boxes that hold back the full-ness of God in our lives - so take this time to keep persevering in your faith, and get that unpack-ing done!

  • Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    Thank you that in your death and resurrection You have done the hard work of my salvation. But help me to continue to persevere in my faith, So that those things that stop me being closer to you can be removed
    Amen.
hand passing a heart to another hand in an act of compassion

Weekly reflection from Matt

  • With Paul up to his ears in boxes this week as the Millards make the big move to the vicarage on Acomb Road (a house where we used to have the St Paul’s youth club - I caused chaos!), he’s asked me to offer this week’s reflection.
  • I want to offer a story of grace actually. A modern-day parable. I’m always on the look out for them to inspire my faith and the faith of others. This is one I shared on Radio Two’s Pause For Thought slot this week.
  • I’ve been giving thanks to God for a precious friend and former clergy colleague recently. Not long ago she was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen. Commended for her ‘invaluable’ contribution to the community. I was thrilled for Irene. For years her work amongst Hull’s homeless and marginalised had been largely unseen and unrecognised. It’s how she liked it. But even my humble friend confessed to bursting with pride and a smile wider than the Humber Bridge when she received news of the Royal award. In my time working with Irene I came to see her as a Saint Jude-type character. A champion of lost causes. I marveled at her absolute belief that no-one was beyond transformation. Everyone should be given a second chance, she’d tell me. And then another one. I lost count of the many broken lives she helped try to heal with practical support and simple, loving friendship.
  • One afternoon Irene suffered a devastating blow. She walked out of our church after leading prayers and was carjacked by a young man. Left sprawled on the pavement beside her walking stick as he sped away. The traumatic aftermath was the only time I’ve seen my friend’s hopeful spirit dimmed. And yet after seeing the culprit sentenced in court, she was moved to try and help even him. Making prison visits. Writing letters. Sending gifts. When he was released, she aided his rehabiliation. An extraordinary woman of grace, then.
  • The downside of being around someone like Irene, was the quick realisation that I’m not enough like her. I suffer compassion fatigue too easily. Find it hard to forgive sometimes. Struggle to bounce back from disappointments. Wonderful works of love, mercy and benevolence are easy to admire in others. And yet as a Christian I’m still called to put them into action myself - however inadequately. I know God wants me to be the best Matt possible.
  • As the Queen’s letter to Irene stressed, following the loving example of Jesus is ’a call to service for all of us.’ Faith or no faith - and in my case, even when it doesn't come naturally. My abiding memory of Irene is of her serving hot drinks to the homeless with the help of a cheerful young man. It was the carjacker. Saint Irene? She certainly is to me.
  • Have a great weekend! Rev Matt Woodcock
hand holding a compass

Way Maker

  • To be honest the past few weeks have been very challenging, not because of anything to do with either church, but with trying to move house amidst a lockdown. We have had issues with buildings work, phone and internet provision and changes to the way we can be moved. Some days I have felt like banging my head against a brick wall. Yet, throughout the many frustrations that we have faced, and still are facing, I trust that God is within it all. We will move, we will eventually get our phone bill sorted out and have a house that is a home. We hopefully will have a welcome service, and a belated leaving service too. Why do I believe that? Because I think God does make a way.
  • In Morning Prayers we have recently read through Exodus and are now in the early chapters of Joshua. Have you ever noticed that God removes the waters at both the beginning (Exo 14) and the end (Josh 3) of the Israelites journey through the Wilderness? God proves time and time again that he is a Way Maker throughout scripture - when the disciples thought Jesus had left them alone after His ascension, God provided the Holy Spirit. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when we feel scared, fed-up, or even confused. Perhaps sometimes, like the Israelites in the Wilderness, we wonder whether life was not better as it was before. Yet, I think, that we learn through the pages of scripture and through our life experience, that when things are most challenging that is when we most have to trust in God to make the way.
  • When we are able to meet properly again as churches - a joyous day! - it will be interesting to see where God is leading us. We have our new partnership between St Barnabas and St Paul’s, that has been drawn together through the wilderness of lockdown and before that through the wilderness on an interregnum. I’m excited to see what our Way Maker God is going to achieve through this new mission initiative. We are encouraging members of each congregation to join with our PCCs to pray for Vision for this Mission on two Thursday evenings over the next couple of months - 25 June and 23 July. These prayer meetings will be an opportunity to pray for the areas in which we live and worship, but also to look at how we can engage with the Central Development. Following the meeting on 25 June we would encourage any words from God to be fed back to Paul or the Wardens to take further.
  • God is a Way Maker, a miracle worker, a light in the darkness, that is who he is. He will show us direction for our partnership, he will bring us out of lockdown, and he will get us moved into the Rectory!
  • You may find the links to 2 songs below helpful…
  • Way Maker
  • God Will Make a Way

  • Prayer

    Faithful God,
    Thank you that you are the Way Maker throughout history. Help me to be patient and trust you in the challenges I face. Help me to know that you will bring me through each one As my loving heavenly Father.
    Amen.
pices of broken tiles

Broken Things

  • I went for a bike ride on Monday afternoon. Having ridden around 29miles, I was virtually home, when coming round a corner I put the power down…and heard a ping - I had broken a spoke. Thankfully, I was only a mile away from home and so walked home carrying my bike on my shoulder feeling somewhat disgruntled.
  • I managed to find some new spokes online and was able to fix my wheel - amazingly as I am not overly practical in most areas of my life! As I placed it proudly back on my bike, and crudely trued the wheel all seemed well, until I realised that I had punctured my inner tube in the process - arrrgghhh!
  • In life we face many different types of broken things: physical items like my wheel; tech-nical difficulties (Zoom meetings!); relationship struggles; sickness; memories of the past to name but a few, and they each present different challenges to us. Sometimes we can get them sorted out, other times - like with my wheel - we mend one thing, but cause an-other problem somewhere else. Alone, it is easy to feel like our life is full of broken things. These may be things that life has just thrown at us, or be situations we have had some in-volvement in creating. Whichever, it can be hard to try and sort these things out for our-selves.
  • Thankfully our God is masterful at this. As we look through the Bible we see numerous times when God has fixed broken things. In 2 Cor. 12.9, Paul reminds us that this is a good thing because it allows us to keep the focus of our lives on God. It is when we are weak, when we feel like we cannot fix things, that God comes in and shows why he is so faithful and good.
  • …But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. 2 Cor. 12.9
  • In the broken things that each of us face, I would encourage us to allow God to help fix the brokenness. Sunday is Pentecost where we are reminded afresh of God’s power working through us by the Holy Spirit. Whatever you are facing this week, give it to God, knowing that he loves to mend broken things, and invite the Holy Spirit to come and help you.
  • Here is a link to a beautiful song called Broken Things that you might find helpful to listen to.

  • Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    Thank you that you love to mend broken things. You long to see your children restored, in heart, soul, mind and strength. I ask that you will pour your Spirit into me today that I may know your wholeness restoring the areas in my life that are broken. And lead me to others who need to know this same restoration, that I may bring your heal-ing and peace through the power of the Holy Spirit, to them. In the name of Jesus I pray.
    Amen.
basket of fruit

Patience

  • As we rapidly approach Pentecost (31 May!) I feel God is leading me to Galatians 5:22-23: …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
  • These fruits, are produced as we live our lives in the power of the Spirit. Sadly, they take time to cultivate and do not all appear at once, but hopefully, and gradually, they develop in our lives. During these unusual times of lockdown, they are particularly useful too: For ourselves, having joy and peace is such a gift; For our households, having kindness and gentleness make our lives together easier.
  • These fruits, are produced as we live our lives in the power of the Spirit. Sadly, they take time to cultivate and do not all appear at once, but hopefully, and gradually, they develop in our lives. During these unusual times of lockdown, they are particularly useful too: For ourselves, having joy and peace is such a gift; For our households, having kindness and gentleness make our lives together easier.
  • But there is one of these gifts I particularly want to focus on today - patience.
  • Synonyms for patience, include: restraint, leniency and longanimity (not one you hear in conversation often!)
  • For me, patience is a fruit of the Spirit that I often find myself lacking in. I lack patience: with my family; with drivers who drive slowly; to move house; with the government during lockdown; to see those I love come to faith in Jesus; to experience normality in St Paul’s and St Barnabas churches. Thankfully, I suspect I am not the only one in our churches who lacks patience.
  • I have now been in post for 4 weeks, which has flown by.
  • It has been a steep learning curve in many ways and I am having to be patient with myself, and with God. As I was appointed there was a clear desire to develop a vision for both parishes, individually and as a partnership. This is very important to me, as it is to you, as it is to God and His kingdoms growth. However, at this time, we need to be patient. But patience doesn’t need to mean we are stationary. We need to work through the current challenging situation which is happening and I am so grateful for all the gifted and talented people we have in both churches.
  • I think, we should also constantly be having the longer-term in mind, prayerfully thinking how God wants to reveal himself to those in the Leeman Road area, the Holgate area and beyond.
  • This is my hope and plan, and I hope it is yours too, and I would gladly receive thoughts and ideas you may have.
  • I would also encourage you to join us as we hold two Thy Kingdom Come prayer events. On 21st May 7-9pm we will have a launch event, and then on 23 May from 7am-7pm will we be praying through the day for numerous different things, but I hope one of those things will be that God will reveal to us the way forward beyond these unusual times. Please join us for an hour, or more! Also pray at home, prayer virtually for our future together, but also that we can be patient (with anticipation) for all that God has in store for us together.

  • Prayer for Patience

    Heavenly Father,
    Help me to trust you through these challenging times. I ask that you will fill me with your Spirit and develop the fruit of patience in my life. Help me to pray and know your inspiration, and help me to be excited for all that you have in store for us in the future.
    Amen.
Scrabble pieces making up the word 'hope'

Hope

  • As I write this reflection the government are due to be meeting to determine whether there will be any easing of the current lockdown. We all recognise that any easing will be a long process of gradual change to manage any risks of further spikes in infection. And just the thought of small changes to our situation provide us a glimmer of hope for the future days and weeks to come as life slowly returns to normal(ish).
  • A glimmer of hope - The Collins dictionary defines hope as: A feeling of desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfilment.
  • I have a hope, that The Millards will be able to move to the Rectory by the end of the May.
  • I have a hope, that we will able to meet in our church buildings before Christmas.
  • I have a hope, that through the challenge of the lockdown, Jesus will bring more people to himself.
  • What are you hoping for at the moment?
  • I think that hope is important to Christians, and to our wider society. In the NIV version of the Bible the word hope appears 167 times - so there has to be some truth in this! With this in mind, I also think, that as Christians we are called to be full of hope. St Paul in Romans 15:13 says…
  • ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
  • We are called to be full of hope, because we serve a God of hope, a God who gave us Jesus who is the greatest beacon of hope the world will ever know. If we seek to become more like Jesus - who we believe is God - then we should also become more hope-filled. Of course being hope-filled can sometimes feel challenging, not least during a lockdown! Yet, as Paul reminds us, we are not alone in this task. We are not left straining every sinew to try and produce a pseudo-smile of hope, but instead we are told that the Holy Spirit will empower us to overflow with hope - what an amazing promise! So if you are feeling lacking in hope at this time, then pray that the Holy Spirit will provide you with the Hope of God.
  • As we develop our hope, then we can bring that hope to those around us too - whether virtually, or from a safe distance! If we are called to witness to the Gospel, then we are to witness of the hope we have in Jesus. Paul reminds us of this in another verse about hope from Col. 1:27…
  • ‘To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’
  • Tips for developing hope:
  • Prayer that the Holy Spirit will give you hope (see prayer below)
  • Read your Bible regularly to know the good things God has done though history.
  • Worship God. Remember those amazing things that God has done. Why not listen to some worship music: Cornerstone
  • Join with other Christians through Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook and share your hope together, and let that lead you to sharing with those who don’t know Jesus.

  • Hope Prayer

    Holy Spirit
    Open our hearts each day, so that we can know your
    Presence in our lives,
    Enabling us to have confidence in you, the God of hope.
    Amen.
Man standing on top of a mountain looking at the view

Freedom

  • Lock-down has been challenging. We miss people. We miss places. We are ready to take a breath of air outside our “new normal” pattens of life. In some ways lock-down feels like we are locked away, our normal freedoms restricted dramatically. And the reality of the physical situation is that in many ways that is the case. Yet as Christians, we must remember that though we may be locked-down physically, we are free spiritually.
  • The words of the Benedictus that is said in the Church of England Morning Prayers are an adaption of Zechariah’s song following the birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1. There is one verse that always makes me feel amazed as I read it. It says that we are… ‘Free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.’
  • These words are true in all times, but in our current situations, remembering that we are free to worship him (to give God value and praise for who He is) is amazing. And this purpose of freedom is reflected in many places throughout the Bible: In Exodus, God sets the Israelites free from Egypt; Gal. 5.1 says, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’; In 2 Cor.3.17 Paul says, ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.’ There are many more passages because freedom is a central theme in the Bible.
  • How do we use this spiritual freedom in these challenging time?
  • It comes back to our worship. I think we can worship God in two key ways:
  • 1. Through our words - We can pray to God and sing to him for all the great things he has done for us, and all the great things he has done throughout history. Also we engage with people virtually, or from a 2-metre safe distance, we can speak of the hope, love, peace and joy of Christ into their lives. This is bringing honour to who God is - a form of worship!
  • 2. Through our deeds - The way we act within our households and outside too, as we live our socially distanced lives, is really important. Loving our neighbours as ourselves is part of Jesus’ summary of the law and at times such as these, more than ever, I think learning to live our lives in this way is key. Perhaps it is helping someone who is struggling with their shopping; maybe giving someone a call; it could be safely taking a treat to someone who may be struggling with being alone. As we serve each other we are worshipping God as we are giving worth and value to what God is calling his children to do.
  • Of course our freedom is not for our own immediate gain, though as we worship God we do draw closer to Him. Our freedom is all so God can be glorified more in the world. As John the Baptist says of Jesus, ‘He must increase and I must decrease’ (John 3:30). In our freedom to worship we lift Jesus higher and in this world that is in fear and despair, as Jesus is raised higher, then they can start to recognise Him for the saving grace that he offers - that undeserved gift of life with Him now and for ever.
  • So, through this time make your worship louder and stronger so that the world can see the freedom that is offered through Jesus.

  • A Prayer

    Heavenly Father,
    Help us this week to understand the fullness of worshipping you without fear. And help our worship, in word and deed, lift your name higher, so that the world will discover the freedom we have in you.
    Amen.
Looking through a phone at an image of different people of the world

Paul

  • “Paul, called to be a servant of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the churches of Holgate and Leeman Road, sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Adaption of 1 Cor. 1.1-3)
  • I couldn’t resist starting my message as the Apostle Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthian church, as during this lockdown, receiving the grace and peace of God, I think, is key to keeping us all on track.
  • Also, there are many challenges that facing each of us, and living out that calling to be holy - living lives committed to God - draws us continually back to Jesus.
  • Finally, it encourages us to be asking daily for the equipping power of the Holy Spirit so that we can love those around us - even when they might be driving us crazy! - and reach out to those in need.
  • It is odd to write my first communication to you during these unprecedented times and though it is very frustrating not to have had a proper farewell from Clifton, or welcome from St Paul’s and St Barnabas, I am most delighted to join you at this time.
  • As a family this has been challenging on many levels, as before lock-down we were getting ready to move home and schools and now have had everything put on hold - I am so thankful for the internet! Please pray for us as a family. It would be great if we could move house as soon as possible so we can start getting settled in.
  • Yet I am here now and am looking forward to getting to know people and working with the great team of leaders and volunteers from both churches hoping to see God’s kingdom grow.
  • I’m so thankful for all that has, is and will be happening together with the help of God.
  • And I think that we have already seen how this pandemic has drawn both churches together naturally as our new partnership begins.
  • I wanted to let you know a few practical things that I am hoping to put in place in the short-term with our inability to meet in person (more information will follow in the coming days for points 1-3):
  • 1. I am hoping to set-up Zoom meetings for various ministry teams as a way for me to get to know some names and faces and a feel for the way the various groups work together. I am planning to set-up some Zoom “drop-ins”. These will be a bit like an open house where there will be a period of time where I will host a Zoom meeting and people can come along as and when they want to and introduce themselves and ask questions of me. Perhaps you might want to have a coffee and biscuit with you!
  • 2. Rowena has already sent a message asking about how people are connecting during the lockdown, and we are considering as a staff team how we can encourage more people to join temporary Small Groups during this time. This may mean joining an existing one, where possible, or starting new ones. This could be within each church, or cross-church. I would really encourage you to consider being part of this during the lockdown. Also, if you are already part of a group of any description then why not invite others to join you?
  • 3. I am aware that some members of our churches will not be online, but being new I don’t know them all. If you think there are some people who might appreciate a call from me then please do pass on names and details to Ian (St Paul’s) or Anne (St Barnabas) and I will do my best to get in touch.
  • Finally, I would encourage you to remember that we are in this together. Together in our humanity and geography, but more importantly in our faith as Paul reminded the Corinthians, we are…‘together with all those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
  • We are together spiritually so we can continue to call on God: for ourselves; for those whom we love; for our city; for our nation; and for this world at this time. We may not be able to do much physically together, but we can unite our prayers as believers knowing that God hears his children as they cry out.
  • God bless. Paul

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