Dear Brothers and Sisters,
All that anyone is talking about here, and it seems throughout the whole world is Covid 19 coronavirus. As I write we have just been told that anyone coming to Australia will have to self isolate for two weeks. On top of the hit from Bushfires – that’s the tourist industry for this year finishedThere is an endless stream of bad news – as we have noted before bad news sells far better than good news – but we have good news. More than anything else I am a preacher of good news – indeed the best news of all – that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief!
The urgency of telling people the Gospel is something that has always been with me, but especially in the past few years. 1Cor. 9:16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! But perhaps I feel this from Jeremiah more than anything – But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9). The urgency has not increased because of the coronavirus, but the opportunities I believe are greater. I knew my own mortality – the coronavirus is a better preacher of death than I am. My job is to provide the gospel vaccine.
This month has been for me a month of wonderful opportunities so far – I was due to speak a total of 37 times but two of these have now been cancelled – and I expect more cancellations to follow.
But let me give you a sample of the past eight days – I have loved every opportunity.
Saturday 7th – Chatswood Presbyterian men’s conference with 250 plus men. Three sermons on psalms and their application to modern life. This was a wonderful day with great encouragement from the men…although we failed miserably on the no shaking hands routine.
Monday (9th) to Thursday 12th – Three chapels at Shore school and then a Q and A on the Thursday. On Jesus saying I am the Vine. This was a wonderful opportunity to preach the Good News to 1200 boys. It was not without controversy – because even within a Christian school there were those who took offence at my plain speaking!
Thursday 12th – Lawyers Breakfast in the city – looking at Humanity and the Environment.
Saturday 13th – Two talks at the ‘Jesus Is’ mission in Wollongong – “Open Doors” and “Shifting Sands”. This was so encouraging to see the commitment and organisation. The night before 1000 young people had gathered with 120 of them professing faith.
Today – Sunday 14th – Three services at St Thomas’s (the 8, the 10 and the 5) preaching on Romans 1 – I am not ashamed of the Gospel. The people were enthusiastic as I explained why we were going ahead with an outreach invitation Sunday next Sunday (DV) – because people need to find hope in the midst of a hopeless culture. This may yet be cancelled by government or diocesan order. We shall see.
I am trying to think through this whole ‘let’s stop meeting in public as a church’ thing which I am hearing a lot of. Doubtless if we are asked to stop doing so, by government on medical advice, we would have to do so – I’m just not entirely convinced that this is something that we should unilaterally do. This is a time when Christians need to be gathering together to pray – and even more so for us to proclaim the Good News. Anyway I’m not sure about this – but there is something that seems to me to be quite disturbing about churches and others deciding to close at a time when we are most needed.
I am also even more concerned about the message we are sending to our old people. Is it true that the UK government are proposing confining over 70’s to their homes for four months? If so that seems both draconian and self-defeating. Have people thought through the consequences of that? If churches are closing as well – for how long? What if this virus is around for 12-18 months with no vaccine?
Doubtless we will return to this subject next week….
Meanwhile I leave you with this quote from C S Lewis – writing at a time of great national fear over a potential nuclear war:
“The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.” C.S. Lewis
Yours in Christ
PS. This is a rather good article from Private Eye on the hysteria surrounding coronavirus. https://www.private-eye.co.uk/issue-1517/columnists?fbclid=IwAR0SQpgJv15jwcAtcK44eNkjtFhxjfiYIX8JOG5RjgJwvkhmkXZ4knljCFU