Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
At times like this, it seems appropriate to begin our message with you like a New Testament letter to God’s faithful people – just like in the ancient world.
This greeting, Grace and Peace to you, comes to you from Philippians 1:2. Paul begins his note to the people he loves by offering them a promise and a blessing in the midst of turbulent times.
First, the promise – grace – God’s unmerited favour to his people at all times and in all places. And secondly, peace – a blessing in the midst of incredible uncertainty and suffering. A peace that passes all understanding which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This blessing of peace allows our hearts to continue beating for each other and it guards our minds to be fearless in the face of chaos.
Pause, for one moment – take a deep breath – and remind yourself that you are loved, saved and remembered by God and by the people of your Spiritual community.
Now, as we’ve taken a deep breath, Rolly and I, as part of the pastoral team at Good Shepherd and as part of the Good Shepherd congregational board would like to share with you some of the opportunities and struggles that have been presented at this time.
The Good Shepherd board met and have decided to suspend public worship and all group gatherings in the Good Shepherd building for a time.
Giving up public worship and other gatherings for a time is consistent with our Prime Minister’s announcement – and being enacted by other congregations. While not being able to gather in public worship for a season is disappointing, we can forgo this with a clear conscience.
St Paul talks about giving up eating meat so as not to cause offence to those who could eat only vegetables. Out of love for others – and for the greater good of our community – we can give up our freedom to gather for worship and other fellowship events. In the current situation, we do this for the sake of the elderly and vulnerable of our own church family as well as the wider community.
We are not only the Church when we gather for worship, but we are also the Church when we are sent out into the world. In and from our own homes, we can continue to worship individually and/or with our families. We can continue to pray, bless, keep in touch with others, and look after people who are struggling. Instead of doing church on Sundays, we can be the church every day!
With regards to worship, a team will develop ways we can connect on-line – whether live stream or recorded. The pastoral team will provide resources for connection and conversation, whether on-line or via phone, which would help us to ‘dwell on these things – whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy!
These are things we should dwell on, and these are the things we should be doing in these times of large group gathering uncertainty.
- We want to take care of all in the community, especially those at risk, the elderly.
- We want to promote a sense of peace, calm and assurance when the bedrock of what we know as 21st century culture is resonating intensely with the chaos of 1st century biblical culture.
- We want to, as a community, gather together resources for those who are desperate. Those who have lost their jobs. Those who have been unable to purchase the necessary groceries? Those who have no freedom from isolation.
These are the primary questions of being the church rather than going to church. For those who have the opportunity to give, give generously. As the early church did, we hold ‘all things in common’ at times like these. We recognise that hidden in the shadow of this difficulty is also a realisation that the blessing of the Christian is not limited to simply what one has, but is multiplied exponentially by what one shares.
As we continue to walk this divergent path, we pray that God continues to bless this community in Jesus Christ as we partner with local agencies and other churches to serve between worship services.
Over the last 2000 years, the Church has faced waves of persecution, threats of false doctrine, and being maligned by the prevailing culture. Yet the Church endures.
In times of national disaster – famine, flood, or plague – the Church at its best has responded with compassion, solidarity with the suffering, and practical care. At its best, the Church reflects the light of Jesus into people’s gloom, and brings hope to the world.
We continue to be the body of Christ, serving the world in love, enacting the kingdom of God, and playing our part in God’s restoration plans.
God is with us, Christ is in us, and by the Spirit of the living God we go forward together knowing that nothing in all creation can separate us from his unfailing love.
Please share this with as many people as you know.
In the powerful name of Christ our Lord,
Pastor Reid and Pastor Rolly