Thoughts On Faith

Read the latest thoughts on faith from across the Benefice.

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Faith in Lockdown? - Thoughts from Leslie Tennant, Church Army Evangelist (Retired) within our Benefice team

Can 'faith' be ever locked down? - that is made irrelevant, ineffective or even unneccessary?

It is true that faith can be weakened, challenged or damaged but if faith is in a living Christ, then he will not allow that flickering light to expire.  In the resurrected Easter Jesus, there is always hope.

Whatever can be said about the four countries of the United Kingdom, we can put on a good show when it matters most.  The quiet solmenity and respectful remembrance of Armistice Day obviously contrasts vivdly with the national sense of euphoria after the prowess of our athletes during the London Olympics of 2012 or the 1966 celebrations when England won the football World Cup.

In these Covid-19 tense and threatening times, there has been an upsurge of a massive and spontaneous national demonstration.  From high-rise city flats to towns and rural postcard villages, people have emerged to open windows and front gardens to create a cacophany of appreciation, respect, unity and - above all - of hope.  The thrilling and eerie sound of bagpipes, the strident notes of trumpets, the clattering of wooden spoons on saucepans and the enthusiastic clapping of people of all ages create an unforgettable symphony of intent.  We shall not be beaten!  The objects of this demonstration are all those NHS staff and so many other necessary people who are on the 'front line' of fighting this silent and invisible often deadly virus.

From some discernible early indifference in March has now emerged a steely united concern for each one of us to do his or her part in doing what is so necessary to counter and bring healing from this horrendous pandemic.  At times like this, the places of worship have been open as sanctuaries but that haven has now been denied.  But perhaps it is only at times like these that faith can be really tested.  I am reminded of a fascinating true story.

In 1932, Londoner Gladys Aylward began work in China as a Christian missionary.  Her caring and outreach were bearing fruit and she set up an orphanage.  In 1938, Japanese forces invaded and it was discovered that a reward was being offered for her capture or death.  She realised it was time to flee.  For 14 days she led 100 orphan children and a few staff out of danger and across an arduous mountain range.  Her Christian faith and prayer were an inspiration as they sought safe refuge.  They then arrived at the wide and impassable Yellow River!  Some in the group asked: 'Why has God brought us this far only to give up on us now?'  Gladys suggested that they worshipped and prayed, reminding them that 'God is still God!'.  Soon afterwards, some Chinese boatmen arrived and the whole group was taken to safety.  What an answer to their reaching out to God in prayer!

As I write this, our usual Easter celebrations must be radically transformed.  Yet the underlying theme is that God's love enabled a defeated and desperate group of disciples to see that, in the resurrection of Jesus, God keeps his promises.  It is right that our faith and trust in Christ are tested but it is then that resilience and courage are born and cultivated amidst the loneliness, sorrow, loss and suffering experienced by so many.  As we seek to help each other by prayer, phone, video or practical contact through this crisis, let us be aware of and try to accept an ancient assertion from Psalm 46:1: 'God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not be afraid, even in the earth is shaken.'

Also, please remember especially the words of Gladys during this Eastertide: 'God is still God'.  So, can there be faith in lockdown........?

LGT

5 April 2020

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