The Shadow of Fear and Uncertainty (22 March 2020)

The Shadow of Fear and Uncertainty (22 March 2020)


Well good morning. Welcome to everyone.
Well there’s actually no one other than our wonderful tech team present here
with me this morning. Our tech team are always making a valuable contribution
behind the scenes to our services but none more so at the moment. This season
that we are in I want to particularly acknowledge our tech team
and the role that they are playing to make this online service possible. But to
you who gathered at home and gathered in your families or on your own or
perhaps even with some others from your small group special welcome to you this
is a first; a first for you probably perhaps as we do
church online. It’s a first for all of us in many ways. A first for BMBC; we’ve
only been in existence after the merge for bit over 12 months
but for BBC before that and for MBC, I suspect a first all up. It’s a
first for me speaking without well speaking literally to an audience of one
or just a few but welcome and thanks to technology we’re able to bring this
service to you. As we begin though what a week it’s been. These are truly
unpredictable and uncertain times but in the midst of it all in the midst of the
unfamiliarity in the midst of the uncertainty that we are dealing with God
is still on the throne. God is still very much in control. Let me begin by
reminding you that the church is the people not the building. And the Holy
Spirit is not limited to us gathering together face to face. God is still at
work in your life and around you. So let’s begin by me reading from Psalm 46 our bible reading for today that I’ll speak on shortly. And as I read it take in its words reflect on them. Continue to reflect on them as
after I read it Nick comes and plays some instrumental music for us for a
few minutes as we reflect on Psalm 46 before pastor Andy comes and leads us in
prayer. Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the
earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the City of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Good morning everyone.
I came across these prayers that have been written specifically for this
moment in time by the Church of England. So let’s pray them together. Keep us good Lord under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low, that we may rejoice in your comfort; knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. You have taught us to love our neighbour and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love and your love for your name’s sake. God of compassion be close to those who are afraid or in isolation, in their loneliness be their consolation, in their anxiety be their hope, in their darkness be their light, through him who suffered alone on the cross but reigns with you and glory Jesus Christ our Lord. Merciful God we entrust to your tender
care those who are ill or in pain, knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe. Comfort and heal them and restore them to health and strength through Jesus Christ our Lord. Gracious God give skill sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick and your wisdom to those searching for a cure. Strengthen them with your
spirit that through their work many will be restored to health
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Remind us O Lord that we are not people of fear
we are people of courage. We are not people who protect only our own safety
we are people who protect our neighbour’s safety. We are not people of greed
we are people of generosity We are your people God giving and loving
wherever we are whatever it costs for as long as it takes
wherever you call us amen. Thanks Andy. Before we come to God’s Word,
and it is a streamlined service with a little bit of musical input
from Nick along the way, let me just communicate with you a few things.
We regularly have a communication time and again we’ll do that now for a
few moments. This would also typically be the point in our service where we would take up our offering but obviously we encourage you to
contribute online through online giving And the website the give tab there
quite simply allows you to do that. But I particularly want to communicate to you that our pastoral and ministry teams
continue to be active through this season. Yes we’ll be functioning in
different and diverse ways to usual, but ministry goes on and ministry is probably
more important than ever at a time like this. In the area of Prayer
David and I have met together and next week David will be providing
some prayer resources for you to focus on through the week
and also a way that you can bring prayer needs back to our
prayer ministry team. In outreach pastor Andy has provided a resource for us to be able to use for those who may be
self isolated as a way of reaching out and that went out with the email during the week. In children’s and Families ministry
in youth ministry Michelle and Tom pastors Michelle and Tom
have been actively preparing and distributing resources and finding ways to see a ministry going on
in those areas in different ways through this season. With our seniors, pastor Andy has consulted with them Dorothy and Junie and they are
increasing the ministry and care to seniors. And of course in the small groups
small groups are a real hub through this time people looking out for one another
caring for one another and again Gary and Christine and I are looking to
provide resources and equip our small groups to function in creative and caring ways
through these times. And speaking of caring of course our
connecting and caring ministry across the church family is is vital through a
time like this and our whole pastoral team are working
together in this but the whole church family each of you has a part to play in
this as well connecting with and caring for one
another in different ways phone calls emails texts just checking in and just
ensuring that we’re all being being what Christ has called us to be for one
another along the way and so I’ll communicate weekly with you not only in
a service like this as a church family but instead of our regular newsletters
during the week there’ll be a weekly email that you’ll receive from me you
received a couple this week but we hope that’ll just settle down
into a rhythm of one each week in place of our regular newsletter So as we come
to God’s Word now though let me pray briefly before we come to
hear from God this morning. God we want to thank you
that we can hear from you there are many different messages
that we’re hearing at the moment many different messages
most of which are not good news but God as we hear from you we pray that
we would be reminded afresh that our hope is in you. So help us to have hearts
to hear your word for us this morning and be open to that and to receive that
and to apply it into our hearts and minds and lives and we ask this in your name Amen. last week we began the series
leading into Easter on shadows. shadows that come across
the paths of our lives. and it’s interesting timing because
really there’s probably no greater shadow than the one that the
coronavirus has cast and continues to cast across our community
across our country and across our world but the virus isn’t the only thing spreading fear and uncertainty are spreading rapidly too and they are casting their
shadow across our hearts and minds because what is happening
can easily overwhelm us whichever way you look at it
it’s around us constantly it’s before us constantly it affects day to day life in so many ways its shadow effects work life
many people having to work from home many others suddenly having no work
for this season at least it affects people’s recreational lives with sport and travel impacted like never before it affects people’s financial lives as the economic impact of this crisis
cuts deep into people’s pockets it affects people’s family lives and of course
it affects our church family life as we gather online together like this
instead of face to face the shadow of fear and uncertainty out of this crisis
and out of this challenge is long and far-reaching and none of us know how long
or to what extent it will go but today I want to speak into all of this
from a spiritual perspective looking at what Psalm 46
points us to as followers of Jesus outbreaks like coronavirus
are new and unprecedented but Psalm 46 was written by the sons of Korah
who were assistants in the temple in the Old Testament and they wrote this psalm
in the midst of the shadow of fear and uncertainty that people faced back then
of events that would that were different yes but events nevertheless that brought
devastation and destruction events that affected life in so many ways pestilences are described many times in the Bible
as are wars particularly through the Old Testament but the words of God from Psalm 46
speak to us clearly they speak to us today just as clearly as they did
to God’s people long ago and they point us to what we need to be reminded of when the shadow
of fear and uncertainties surround us three things, firstly God’s words here in Psalm 46
point us to our foundation to what we find our hope and our security in what do we read in Psalm 46 verse 1
God is our refuge and our strength he is an ever-present help in trouble and into verse 4
there is a river whose streams make glad the City of God the holy place where the most high dwells God is within her she will not fall
God will help her at break of day nations are in uproar kingdoms fall
but he lifts his voice some years ago we had to replace our driveway and the concrete had to be pulled up
and it had to be pulled out and we had to re-concrete the driveway
why was that? well it was because cracks started appearing
across our driveway and those cracks got bigger and bigger all the time and what that was a sign of was that the
foundation wasn’t all that we needed it to be the sign of that was when these cracks
started to appear and then get bigger and bigger challenges and crises in life
have a way of bringing to the forefront what our security and our hope
and our foundation really is when we feel under threat
when we feel helpless when we feel like things are out of control
out of our control cracks can easily appear in our hearts and in our minds and in our lives and that’s where we need to come back to or put in place
a sure and stedfast foundation that we can have as followers of Jesus to be sure that our security is in the God
who is our refuge and our strength an ever-present help in trouble
our fortress even when everything else in
life might be stripped back and even when everything is in else in life seems
so unpredictable and so uncertain God is the one certainty that we can cling to
when life as we know it is so radically reshaped as it is at the moment we soon
work out what’s really important or where we truly place our security
because our hope as followers of Jesus is ultimately not in the supermarkets
and their supplies as important as that is it’s ultimately not in the stock
market and whether and and and where it’s at and what it’s doing it’s
ultimately not even in our health as important as that is but ultimately our
hope and our securities in the unchanging unending love of God who is
our fortress in all Testament times people really needed a strong and a
secure fortress a community or a village of of people were far more vulnerable if
they didn’t have a strong fortress or a strong walled city that they could flee
to in times of crisis or war and we aren’t any different really in these
times in the midst of the uncertainty and the unpredictability of an
vulnerability of life at the present time we have a fortress to turn to as
psalm 46 reminds us and some 46 directly uses that word these words in the in
verse 1 God is our refuge and our strength and ever present time in
trouble and then in verse 7 the Lord Almighty is with us the God of Jacob is
our fortress psalm 46 has these little pauses through it the word salah
signifies that and salah is as i understand it a musical notation that
indicates a pause for reflection on what has just been expressed we could
translate it as pause and think about it let’s do that just for a moment where
you are in your homes where you are watching watching this pause and think
about God as our fortress God as your fortress God is our foundation God is
your foundation God is the one in whom we find our hope and our security we also need to acknowledge as some 46
does as well the reality of our frailties and our fragility and our
fears along the way fear is described here in psalm 46 in
verse 2 it talks about fear but it says therefore we will not fear though the
earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea though its
waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging and it
describes the things that would cause us to fear like in verse 6 the nation’s
been in uproar and the kingdoms falling and I guess as we think about this in
our present situation what we’re experiencing at the moment is like
nothing any of us have seen or experienced before probably but what
this writer of psalm 46 is describing is unprecedented
– he reversed to the earth giving way and the mountains falling into the heart
of the sea this is language that describes things that are unprecedented
this is language that describes things happening that that shake and
disorientate our sense of equilibrium our sense of normal things that things
happening to turn the world around us as we know it upside-down and indeed the
worlds of our own lives as well and in the midst of that a sense of fragility
and a sense of fear is understandable fear puts down its roots the moment
we’re forced to confront our own fragility and helplessness in the face
of what threat might threaten our world both around us in a wider sense as well
as our our worlds closer to home yes what we face does bring to the surface
our own fragilities and fears but rather than be overwhelmed by it the same
writer encourages us to take our fears to our great all-powerful all-loving
all caring God entrust as author and missionary Katherine Paterson puts it to
fear is one thing but to let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is
another leaving is sometimes a frightful thing living at the moment maybe a
rightful thing for you but but when our fears or fragility threatened to
overwhelm us we must come back to remind ourselves of how great our God is fear
breeds when we keep asking the question what if instead of who is the what if
question what if this happens what if that happens breeds fear but when we ask
the who is questions who is our God who we can have confidence in then that
can make a very real difference and stop fear from overwhelming us so Psalm 50 as
as is expressed not only here in psalm 46 but a little bit further on in Psalm
56 a David puts it this way Psalm 56 when I’m afraid I put my trust in you
God in God whose word I praise in God I trust and I’m not afraid that was true
for David long ago and it’s still something that can be true for us today
so let’s pause again following the Salah pattern from this Sun let’s bring our
fragilities and our fears and have vulnerabilities to God but out of that
let’s bring them to him in trust as we reflect not so much on the what-if
question but on the who God is question let’s just pause again and do that for a
few moments who God and then thirdly and finally some 46
points us to what our focus should be I don’t find it easy to be still as you
know I’m working really hard to be still within the design that I need to be yeah
this morning when I speak I like to move around but when the same writer says
here in verse 10 be still and know that I am God he’s not speaking so much of
being physically still but of still in our hearts and of still in our minds
which can so easily be an overdrive or which can so easily be focused on
stealing things over be still and know that I am God God is still God
unchanging in who God is and unchanging and what God is like the same yesterday
today and tomorrow and even forever as the writer of Hebrews puts it God is
unchanging in working out his sovereign purposes and God is unchanging and
bringing about his kingdom on earth as well as in heaven and so it’s important
that we all take a deep breath and know that God is God know that God is still
God be still and know that I am God and know that God is still God we see the
immediate but God sees the bigger picture
we have a here and now view of the things that are right in front of us but
God has an eternal view of all things it’s as we are still and remind
ourselves that God is God that we can go even to the shadows of fear and
uncertainty and remember that God is already there waiting for us
with us but alongside that of course our focus should be on shining light into
the shadows of fear and uncertainty in people’s lives through times like this
and a Matthew reminds us Matthew chapter 5 as says this you are the light of the
world a town built on a on a hill cannot be hidden neither do people light a lamp
and put it under a bowl instead they put it on its stand
and it gives light to everyone in the same way let your light shine before
others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your your father in heaven
this pandemic brings great challenges but it also presents great opportunities
to live out our faith to a world shrouded in fear and uncertainty to care
for people to show compassion to be a non-anxious presence of Christ among
people to live out our core values of caring for all and looking beyond
ourselves as we close for today I want to leave you with this as you go into
the week ahead there is already and they will continue to be a constant news
cycle to do with the coronavirus it will go on and on 24/7 and while we need to
know what’s happening and while we need to know what we need to be doing the
levels of it if we’re not careful can over saturate our hearts and our minds
stay up with the latest developments yes but can i challenge you to to spend time
saturating yourself in god’s word count of which will allow you allow you allow
us all to counter fear with faith encounter uncertainty with the certainty
of God and his promises reflect you that use as a starting point reflecting
further this week on psalm 46 there are reflection questions that will
be on the website and I’ll allow psalm 46 to be life-giving in the midst of
everything else that might be life sapping through these times so let’s
pause together now following the Salah pattern in this psalm 46 as we focus
simply on being still and knowing that God is God before I close in prayer and
then Nick will send us out into the week ahead with another musical piece and I
look forward to sharing again with you next Sunday in this way let’s pause
let’s be still and know that God is God that God is still God god we want to thank you for the gift of
your words for the gift of the Psalms the gift of psalm 46 the gift of your
promises the gift of your presence and help us into this week ahead with all of
its unknowns and unpredictability each day to anchor in the certainty of who
you are and what you were like to know you is the one in whom we place our
confidence the one in whom we find our hope and our security despite our human
sense of fragility and fear to be still and know that you are God and you are
still God to live out our faith to those who need you to anchor in as well and
need you as their foundation so as we go into this week ahead may the Lord bless
you and keep you may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and may the Lord
give you his peace army you

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