Fragile April 2020

We would never have thought, three months ago, that whole swathes of our society would be shuttered up in their houses, isolating themselves from everybody else. 

As I write, schools are about to shut down, and supermarkets do not have enough toilet roll or pasta to go round.  The church will not gather on Sunday and most of our usual conversations and interactions are having to stop, or at least change. 

This plague of Coronavirus, and the fear of it, has collapsed our society into a crisis.  We did not realise how fragile we were, but now our fragility is exposed.

How do we respond then?  It is good to begin with honestly recognising our fragility and weakness as human beings and as a society.  The Bible, in Isaiah 40:6, says,

“All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

We are like grass, which grows and withers, flourishes and falls.  We spend a great deal of time ignoring and distracting ourselves from the fact that one day, all of us is going to die, but this pandemic has reminded us of this very sharply. 

We like to think we are able to solve all of our problems by technology or political endeavour, working hard, or living our dreams, but our inability to cope with this as a society reveals the truth that we cannot.

On an individual level, we are used to being able to pop to the shop to buy what we need, but now that is not necessarily possible because panicked people are buying all of the necessary resources. 

In a matter of days, we have discovered that we are weak, frail and very fragile, and always at risk of losing our income, resources, relationships, health and even our lives.  However, this is what the Bible has always said about us; we are created by a creator, and are finite, and because we have rejected that creator, we are destined to die.  We are like grass.

We must begin by accepting this about ourselves, but if we stop there we will just despair.  There is a second step to take.

Turn to God.  He is not like grass; he is the creator.  He cannot die because he is the everlasting God; he is able to do anything he chooses because he is all-powerful.  He is entirely strong, mighty, unchanging and unaffected by any crisis.  However, this very same God made himself weak, frail, fragile, dependent and able to die.  When Jesus was born, lived and died, he was God made weak like us.  He died on the cross so that our rejection of God could be forgiven.  He rose again from the dead to free us from the fear and curse of death, and give us eternal life.  John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This crisis has revealed the fragility of our society and our human nature, but putting our trust in Jesus gives us hope, assurance of life after we die and confidence that we are loved by God and secure in him.   

Jez Lowries

June 2020 Magazine

From the Rector

Dear Friends,

There was no magazine in April or May, and there have been no church services, no rotas, no midweek meetings, no clubs of any description running in the church hall or anywhere.  I guess for the first week or so the lockdown may have seemed quite exciting but the novelty has certainly worn off by now.

Many of us have had to grow used to gathering on Sunday mornings to watch our services online, and Jez and I have had to learn very quickly how to make videos.  Phone calls, writing notes and Zoom meetings have taken the place of face to face conversations.  All of it feels second best and barely adequate, and yet some good things have come out of the lockdown.

Right from the beginning, in partnership with Denton Community Challenge and the Havens Community Hub, we were able to set up a community helpline to provide a basic service to anyone who needed a prescription collected or some shopping done.  An astonishing number of people volunteered to help so that to date we have been more than able to cover the requests.  Many, many thanks to all those who have helped.

Again from the beginning, lots of us have been gathering to pray separately but together on Wednesday evenings using an email of prayer points and suggestions sent out each week.  I know that this has been an encouraging discipline for many and something that we have struggled to do as a church family for years.  I feel too that our care for one another has improved.  People are looking out for one another in our church family and trying to keep in touch more deliberately than we did before the lockdown.

Finally, time to slow down and reflect is often overrated but after all the fuss about moving the May Bank Holiday to Friday 8 May, I did find that for once there was time to enjoy the V-E Day celebrations and memories. 

One thing that particularly struck me was the reading (in full) of the personal message from Field Marshall B.L. Montgomery C-in-C which was originally read to all the troops of his 21 Army Group in May 1945.  It began:

On this day of victory in Europe I feel I would like to speak to all who have served and fought with me during the last few years.  What I have to say is very simple, and quite short.

I would ask you all to remember those of our comrades who fell in the struggle.  They gave their lives that others might have freedom, and no man can do more than that.    

Those words naturally reminded me of another war and victory which came to a head 2000 years ago when the Lord Jesus willingly laid down his life on a cross, that others might have freedom from death, sin and judgment. 

As Roger Carswell says in his excellent V-E Day tract, “War on a big scale begins with war in the heart of each of us.  Worldwide outbursts of evil are an explosion of the small-scale scandal of sin in each of us.

“But on the cross, all that wickedness was laid on Jesus.  He was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven.  Heaven is not a reward for doing good, but a gift which Jesus purchased and offers to all.” 

How we need to hear and to keep reminding each other of those words!  With best wishes in Christ,