Newsletter for Sunday 17th January 2021
I know I’m not alone in finding January to be a difficult time. This year, to the naturally dark days and grey, wet weather we also have to contend with the COVID lockdown, the misery of social distancing, the disruption of church and the uncertainties about when we can next see family and friends. All these mean that it’s a tough season.
An image that has stuck with me from one of the Zoom prayer meetings is of a chick, sheltering from the wintry blast under her mother’s wing. A related picture is the seed, planted deep in the dark earth, waiting for the warmth of spring to emerge and surge skyward, bursting with new life.
This is a season to prepare. A season to draw near to God. To shelter under his wing against the wintry chill in preparation for what lies ahead of us. There are spiritual practices for every season of the soul, which can help us to draw near to God and to do the work that prepares us for the next stage of our spiritual journey. What do they look like for this season?
We have lost much in this past year and so we need to grieve, and to lament that loss. Bring your grief to God, sit with him, and weep with him. There is all the difference in the world between shedding tears and pouring out “tears to God” (Job 16:20). For when I weep in the presence of God, I do so before the face of infinite love, unerring wisdom, unchanging faithfulness, and unfailing kindness; before the Father who sent his Son to save me; before the Son who loved me and gave himself for me; in the power of the Spirit who pours love into my heart. Weeping can feel lonely; weeping to God never is.
We see from the psalms that thanksgiving often goes together in the life of faith with lament. It pervades the prayers of the apostle Paul. Not to give thanks is one of the foundational markers of idolatry in Romans 1:21. It seems clear from the Scriptures that thanksgiving is not a discipline simply for when I feel thankful, but a discipline for dark days as well. Look for things to be thankful for at this time. A good exercise can be keeping a gratitude journal, where you daily list the gifts you’ve received from God and give thanks.
In the scriptures, rejoicing too often seems to go together with tears (“sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” 2 Cor. 6:10), which may tell us something about the paradox of the life of faith. In seasons like this we need to allow ourselves to be reminded, stirred, warmed afresh by the simple good news of the gospel. God loves you so much that Jesus laid down his life for you! In Jude 21 it says “Keep yourselves in the love of God”. Let yourself be loved. Don’t wander away from God’s love as we are all prone to do, but go on and on and on being loved by God and rejoicing in that love.
Just as lockdown shuts us into our homes, a season like this risks us turning inward in introspection and destructive self-pity. The antidote to this is to commit afresh to praying for others. Why not make a list of people or situations to pray for each day, and then tick off the answers to those prayers?
In seasons of darkness it can feel like God is absent or silent. Certainly the closeness and joy that comes with his felt presence in us can be hard to experience when times are hard. It’s more important than ever to intentionally draw closer to him and be ready to listen. It’s a time for listening prayer and to reinvigorate a habit of daily bible reading. To help with this our home groups will soon be studying The Bible Course, which will help us to go deeper with scripture. We can’t complain that God never speaks to us if we never open His word for ourselves.
On the days when it’s hard to get out of bed and get going I try to remind myself that God has a purpose and that there are good works that he has prepared for me for that day (Eph 2:10). Faith is often about faithfulness. The simple obedience that trusts God to provide the strength necessary to do what he is asking me to do today. Often I find that it is getting started that is the key – the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!
Yours with much love in Christ,
Rev Jonathan Widdess
firstname.lastname@example.org / 01865 863702
Here is this weeks news….
Morning Worship from St Michael’s – watch the live-stream
Join us at 10:30am on Sunday morning as we stream Morning Worship live from St Michael’s. The service will be led by Eve Lockett with John Rees preaching.
To join in with the service online, visit https://cumnor.org/sunday-service-online-17th-january-2021/
The service will then remain available via our website to watch on demand.
From Sunday lunchtime you can also phone on 01865 920993, and then choose option 1 from the menu. (This delay is due to our live-streaming.) The service will remain available by telephone until the following Sunday.
Worship for Seniors
The latest in our online series of Worship for Seniors is now available to watch at https://cumnor.org/worship-for-seniors-january-2021/. William Cutting is speaking about “Encouragement”. Worship for Seniors is a new, monthly series of devotional videos for seniors and those in care homes. Each episode lasts about 15 minutes. Worship for Seniors is also available by phone on 01865 920993, and then choosing option 2 from the menu.
Zoom Weekly Prayer Meeting
Our weekly prayer meeting continues every Monday at 10am. Join us as we gather together online to pray for one another, our families, friends and neighbours, our parish, our nation and the world.
For more details on how to connect, see this web page.
Dr. Joan Stephens
We heard the sad news this week that Joan Stephens had died peacefully at home. Her funeral is on Thursday 4th February at 1pm in South Oxfordshire Crematorium. Joan was a lovely lady and a faithful member of St Michael’s. Please remember her friends and family in your prayers.
Please Continue To Pray For…
- The family and friends of Joan Stephens
- Those who have lost loved ones recently.
- Our CMS mission partner Bia.
- The St Andrew’s Rebuilding Project.
- All those who are anxious for their jobs or their future.
- All those who are continuing to struggle with the effects of lockdown.
- Those who are homeless or struggling with food poverty.