A Pastoral Message from Gill Newton – Sunday 29th March

Dear friends

As we come to the end of our first week of “lockdown”, I wonder how you are feeling?  The amount of news and information that is coming our way every day from many and varied sources can feel quite overwhelming and finding our way through all of that to discern what is important and what is true can be quite tough!

I hope that you are continuing to feel physically well, but for many of us there may be feelings of anxiety and fear around – for ourselves, for our vulnerable family members, for those family members who are working in frontline occupations, for the future and so on.

This culture of fear has been around for some time, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck the world.  Our political and economic climate prior to this had led to much fear about a potential lack of food, a possible shortage of medicines and a deficit of funds to be able to afford the possible rising prices of food, houses, insurance and travel depending on the outcome of Brexit.  Our news headlines were full of stories of scarcity and we have seen the panic buying escalate as coronavirus spreads.  Generally speaking, as a human race we are not good with the thought of not having enough of anything.

Those same fears have also been vocalised in many part of the church of late as well!  Not enough ministers, not enough local preachers, not enough younger people, not enough money, not enough courage, not enough energy – you name it, someone has suggested that we don’t have enough of it!

In 2 Kings 4, we find the story of a widow who didn’t have enough to pay back those that she owed money to.  She didn’t have enough for her and her children to live on, so she was full of fear, but in her desperation she turned to the prophet Elisha, seeking help.  His response was not to give her what she probably felt that she needed but rather to ask a simple questions – “What do you have in the house?”  The answer was “not much.  Just a small amount of oil.”  But miraculously, that small amount of oil became sufficient to sell and pay off her debts when it was offered, poured out and used in the way that the prophet suggested.

In recent weeks we have seen much panic buying as people became anxious about not having enough of all sorts of things in their home.   And in the church all sorts of questions are being asked about whether we have sufficient financial resource to see us through this time.

We are beginning to discover what we have in the house and in many places we are discovering talents and riches which we did not necessarily know were there!  All sorts of creative talents have emerged as people find new ways of sharing in worship or staying connected to others in their church family and community, volunteering systems are being set up to support the most vulnerable and liaison with other organisations beyond the church is happening.

But what about in our individual houses of faith?  Have you discovered that the months, years and decades of sharing in worship and prayer and being involved in acts of service are now offering you rich treasures of song and prayer and scripture and ideas that you can draw upon?  Like the widow, we are all in a difficult place, separated in many cases from those we love with what we may feel is “only a little oil!”  But when we offer to God what we have in the house, he will bless it and bless us as we discover what it means to be a different kind of church.

Our God is a God of provision and a God of abundance, not a God of scarcity.  So, the encouragement for us is to be like the widow, to seek help from God himself when we may feel that our backs are against the wall and we don’t have enough of anything, to consider what we already have rather than focusing on what we don’t have, to use what we have got wisely and well noting that the multiplication of what we have only comes after we have offered what we do have and to remember that God always provides what we require not what we may feel that we need.  He is a God of sufficiency, not of luxury.

So, what do we have in the house?  Well, rather a lot actually!  May that discovery bring us comfort and enable us to discern how, with God’s help, we might continue to use it wisely and well in his service and for the sake of his kingdom in these challenging days.

Gill Newton

District Chair