As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will to seek post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Thursday 23rd April 2020
One of the things most important to us at this unprecedented period of our history is confidence. We need the assurance of competent leadership from the First Minister at Holyrood and the Prime Minister at Westminster and all who work alongside them. We need to know that Aberdeenshire Council are doing all that they can to support our communities.
We need faith in the NHS – the local medical centre and hospitals –that they are doing all they can within their power, including providing enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients. And should the worse happen and we end up in Intensive Care, we will receive the best possible treatment to give us the best possible chance. Not to mention the reassurance that we can still buy essentials at the local shop and supermarket. Yet confidence can easily be eroded.
Recently some journalist and politicians have been suggesting that the Government in Westminster are making serious mistakes and serious errors of judgement. For example, a lack of competent decision making has led to the shortage of PPE. Some so called experts have suggested the lock down is either unnecessary or should be extended well into next year. Undoubtedly there are failings. We have not invested enough to create a more robust NHS or better social care. So who should we believe?
Goverments in Holyrood and Westminster who are tirelessly working flat our trying to respond to an unprecedented crisis and doing a really good job. Or one journalist who suggests that the coronavirus proves that Boris Johnson and his Cabinet are a malevolent bunch of incompetents who should be drummed out of office immediately!
One of the most interesting characters of the Easter story is doubting Thomas. All the disciples had witnessed the risen Jesus in the flesh. They had seen him and heard the sound of his voice. They have even eaten breakfast with him. In all these post resurrection appearances one person was absent – Thomas.
He would have heard all Jesus exited friends talk of their experience. He would have seen how their grief and sadness had been exchanged for enthusiasm and joy. Yet for Thomas, before this faith can be restored he needs personal confirmation. It was a whole week later before he encountered the risen Jesus.
There is much that can be said about Thomas. We can decry his lack of faith or we can admire his honesty. But I think Thomas reminds us of a deep theological truth. Before we can trust God we need to encounter God. Before we can understand, we need our eyes opened, our minds quickened and hearts softened. It is then and then only that authentic confidence in God can emerge. This can happen in an instant or be forged over a lifetime. We must not forget Jesus’ words ‘Seek and you will find’ or God’s promise that He wants all to be saved.
John 20: 19-30 - Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In the story of Thomas, which of the characters do you most identify with?
Are you like the disciples, with an exuberant faith that overflows with joy? Or are you more like Thomas, struggling with doubts, wrestling with fears and yearning to believe?
Do you have confidence in God?
Doubt – a doorway to discovery
How strangely comforting, Lord,
That so many of your servants
Have doubted you.
So, If I cannot always see the sense
Of your Word;
If I do not always feel confident
About my faith;
If I wonder where your love is
In the face of pain and death;
I am not the first.
A great company of saints and martyrs
Has felt this way before me.
Now, in your presence,
They see face to face
And know as they are known.
Teach me, like them,
Not so much to fear doubt
As to see it
As a sign of the mystery of life
And a door to discovery.
Prayer of Confession
Increase our doubt that
armaments and wars bring peace;
that science and intelligence alone can cure the ills of the world;
that human beings are the controllers of all things.
Give us grace to blush for our mistakes and arrogance,
forgiveness for our foolishness
and power to live as stewards of creation,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
deliver us from
the cowardice that dares not face new truth
the laziness that is content with half truth
the arrogance that thinks is knows all truth
May we plead no extenuating circumstances,
no frailty of nature, no force of temptations,
no persuasions of those who lead us astray.
Grasp us with zeal and fiery commitment
to the purposes of grace in Jesus Christ our Lord
You have brought us to this hour by our several ways,
unfaithful as we have been
You have nevertheless kept faith with us.
Pry us from the host of distractions to which we give ourselves so freely.
Strengthen our resolve to commit ourselves to the Gospel.
Counter our desire for wealth and reputation with an urge to serve
In the way of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Prayers of Intercession
Our heavenly Father, we come before you with contrite hearts, yearning for your comfort and your grace. In the midst of COVID-19 spreading across the globe, we ask in your mercy that you would stop this plague and restore harmony and health to the nations.
We thank you for all those who have dedicated their lives to serving our community, for health workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and especially those who labour In laboratories seeking a vaccine for the Coronavirus. Give them wisdom, skill and patience in their work, and by your grace, give them success in their endeavours.
We also pray for those who govern us, for their courageous leadership and national cooperation. Grant them wisdom in their decisions as they navigate the threats to lives and livelihoods. We also pray for our police force, our emergency services and armed forces as they seek to maintain order in our country. May all respect their work, accept the limitations on our freedoms and seek the welfare of others, for the good of all.
And we pray for ourselves and our families, especially those who have lost loved ones to this disease, or those suffering from its effects. May we know the peace that passes understanding, as we place our trust in Jesus, in whose powerful name we pray.
For Wisdom and calm
Sovereign Lord, you are the hope and healer of your people and have promised a world where there is no more sickness or crying or death.
By your death and resurrection, you have set your people free from the penalty of sin and death.
We pray your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Please prosper the work of those who are seeking a vaccine for the coronavirus, please strengthen those who are treating the sick, please comfort those who are mourning the loss of loved ones or living in fear of this disease.
Please give to governing authorities’ wisdom in their management of this crisis, and give to your people your peace beyond understanding, generous and wise hearts and a renewed trust in your sovereign goodness and glory.
Turn the hearts of many now experiencing fear and anxiety that they they may find that peace which is the fruit of the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray,
A global prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are the God of all compassion and comfort. We thank you that you listen to our prayers.
We pray today for our world, our nation, our communities and our church as the Coronavirus spreads.
Please bring help to all our communities according to their needs. Heal those afflicted and strengthen all who have the responsibility for care. In your mercy, please provide a cure and give wisdom to those seeking to develop a vaccine for this condition.
We pray, too, for ourselves. Enable us to walk by faith. Help us to be careful and wise in taking whatever precautions are necessary to limit and contain the spread of this virus
Strengthen us to remain calm while vigilant; responsible citizens seeking the welfare of others above ourselves.
At times of uncertainty and anxiety, help our world to look to security in your Son, Jesus Christ. And give courage to Christians as we point others to the One in whom there is always hope.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
May the grace of God uphold you,
the peace of God surround you,
the love of God flow from you
and the strength of God protect
and bring you safely through this day.
Great is thy faitfulness