Long service leave
On Monday I will be commencing ten weeks long service leave. I am very grateful for the opportunity to take the leave as, like many of you, I am quite tired. This leave was originally scheduled for 2020. Covid caused that leave to be cancelled, but we say Lord willing when we make our plans and trust He knows what is best for us, what will most further His good purposes in our life and the lives of others – and so am thankful to take the leave now. We as a congregation are in the privileged position of having a very competent pastoral team and I am confident that life will continue as normal with minimal change in my absence, although it will be good to continue praying diligently for the Pastors and the rest of our staff and leaders through this time, that the Lord would sustain and protect them, and give them grace to keep on preaching and teaching His word faithfully and clearly in public and private. Beyond welcoming a new grandchild, Lord willing, and a couple of trips to NSW to see family Jayne and I have no big plans for these ten weeks and so you may see us around from time to time.
We say Lord willing when we make our plans and trust He knows what is best for us, what will most further His good purposes in our life and the lives of others
Thinking about my coming leave has also made me think about where we are as a congregation as we come to start term 2. I am more encouraged now than when we started the year even though we continue to face the disruption of many being sick or isolating at any given time, and there is still hesitancy to meet in some. GSF, our Easter services, and the rest that many have had over Easter make me optimistic that we will continue to gather momentum and energy through term 2 before we face the cold and dark of winter. I am also conscious of four gifts that we can take into the term, gifts you may also be aware of, gifts that can motivate us to persevere in faith and to encourage each other to live consistent Christian lives. Some of these gifts have come to us wrapped in our Covid experience.
1. The gift of knowing the goodness of meeting.
Having felt the pain of isolation how good is it to meet, to sing together, to see the children going out to Sunday School together, to know our young people can meet on Fridays, to have those conversations after church when you can just catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives. We should never take our meeting together for granted, and I hope we come into term 2, and the rest of our lives, with a determination not just to meet, but to make our meetings good. That depends on each of us. It is encouraging just to see each other’s face, to receive each other’s service, to have meaningful conversation with each other. It is good for our visitors to see real relationships amongst us, and a commitment to hearing God’s word together. Those two things communicate that Jesus’ people are a people committed to truth and love, and that is what all need.
It is encouraging just to see each other’s face, to receive each other’s service, to have meaningful conversation with each other. It is good for our visitors to see real relationships amongst us
2. The gift of knowing we are creatures.
The disruption of our plans – like my long service leave; our inability to just think Covid away; the frailties in us exposed by lock down, have all brought home to us that we are finite creatures, not in charge, not creators of our reality. You may not think of that as a gift, but in a proud society where we are tempted to think that we make our world, that our will determines our existence, it is a gift to know we are not little gods. It is a gift to know we depend on God for our lives, our prosperity, the fulfilment of our plans, and that the most important thing in life is to be at peace with the living, almighty, Creator. Covid has not abolished the pride of our society where in our public life people speak as if God does not exist or is irrelevant. But it has humbled many, and hopefully that does two things. It opens up opportunities for us to talk about where real peace and security can be found in a big world where we are very small, and it strengthens our resistance to the lies of our society that we can be self-sufficient and self-creators. We are creatures.
It is a gift to know we depend on God for our lives, our prosperity, the fulfilment of our plans, and that the most important thing in life is to be at peace with the living, almighty, Creator.
3. The gift of the consciousness of our transience.
We should not let the consciousness that we can be in the midst of life and then be carried off by illness in a week or two, be lost. That was part of the shock of Covid for many, and while we have confidence that God is in control, that all our days are written in His book before one of them comes to be, it is also helpful to remember that we have only one life and it is brief. In no time at all each of us will stand before our Lord, and it will be good then to know we have used the one life He has given us well by serving Him, living lives of loving God and loving our neighbours.
In no time at all each of us will stand before our Lord, and it will be good then to know we have used the one life He has given us well by serving Him
4. The gift of knowing how precious peace is.
The final gift comes to us from world affairs, and that is the gift of knowing how precious peace is. How hard to try and spread the gospel and disciple others in Ukraine. We pray for our governments so that we can live ‘peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.’ [1 Tim. 2:2] This is not a prayer that we will be undisturbed in our own private pursuits. The godly life is one that conforms to and shares the mystery of godliness, that is the mystery of salvation through the death and rising of our Lord Jesus [1 Tim. 3:14]. God is giving us peace at the moment in answer to our prayers, and we should be using it well, using it to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus with all and to plan to be doing the good deeds that will bring others to glorify Him.
God is giving us peace at the moment in answer to our prayers, and we should be using it well, using it to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus
I hope you are aware of these gifts, and see them as gifts to us from God to stir us up in our following of our Lord Jesus and give us an urgency, or a determination, to make the gospel of our Lord Jesus known. Our Lord said “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” [Matt. 24:37-39]. That is, they were carrying on with normal life, and willing life to be normal always, not dreaming that it could be overturned in a moment. We see a great determination for life to return to normal now, but there is no safety in normalcy. There is safety only in being alert, ready to meet our Saviour the Lord Jesus, and the disruption of the normal that we have experienced, that reminds us of that, is a gift from God to each of us. Let’s take these gifts with us not just into term 2, but the rest of our lives so we are ready to meet the Son of Man when He comes at the hour we do not expect, whenever that may be.
We see a great determination for life to return to normal now, but there is no safety in normalcy. There is safety only in being alert, ready to meet our Saviour the Lord Jesus