Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 23

It is the time of year for holidays:

While Phil and I were away on holiday we visited the spectacular Clifton Suspension bridge over the Avon Gorge in Bristol.  It was well worth seeing, so we parked the car and negotiated the Covid one-way pedestrian route meaning that we had to cross the whole bridge on one side, and then cross back again on the other side to return to the car.  On one of the supporting columns is a mysterious Latin inscription ‘Suspensa Vix Via Fit’, which roughly means "A suspended way made with difficulty"  This seemed an apt comment considering the amount of planning, construction and time that must have been involved overcoming the difficulties of building across the gorge at that height. 

“A way made with difficulty” could also sum up life in lockdown or its aftereffects.  For some young people receiving exam results recently there are ongoing difficulties, some people are struggling in changing financial circumstances and others are again in a stricter lockdown.  As a church we make our way forward with difficulty, step by step, trusting to God’s higher ways and not the ways of the world. 

Reflection from Phillip

Biblical situations of lockdown - The servant girl in the story of Naaman,
“Witnessing in lockdown” 2 Kings 5 v.1-6

The Bible contains dozens of stories and in the stories are hundreds of characters.  Many of them are named, some are not, and today’s passage contains several known characters and one unnamed but significant individual.  The story of Naaman is a wonderful story of healing through faith.  It shows that God’s love and mercy is not just limited to his chosen people (the Israelites), but able to reach out to individuals of other nations.  Yet this wonderful story of the healing of Naaman, a valiant solider in the service of the king of Aram, only happened because of the insistence of one un-named person; Mrs Naaman’s servant.

Sadly we do not know her name, we know that she was captured when bands of raiders from Aram had gone into Israel and the NIV says she served Naaman’s wife (v2), meaning in all probability she was her slave.  But, whatever her employment status, one thing was definite - she was in a place where she did not want to be.  In that I guess a lot of us could associate with her, because at times we find ourselves in situations where we do not want to be.  Whether it is down to a job, family situation, health, house, examination results or the government imposing a lockdown, we sometimes find ourselves where we do not want to be.  An obvious human reaction is to sulk, and we become (to use a good Yorkshire word) mardy; we sink into a sea of misery and woe betide anyone who tries to help.  When we sulk, we think only of self, we forget others and put God on one side.  That is the obvious reaction, but Mrs Naaman’s servant did not do that!  She knew the truth that God was God of the whole universe, including the situation she was now in and she was not going to keep that knowledge to herself.  God loved her, she felt a comfort through that and wanted others to feel it too. 

There were lots of things against her.  She was a foreigner and a slave plus she was also female and young.  Any one of those attributes could have stopped her speaking out, but she didn’t, because she knew that no matter where she was, she was a child of God.  She is a perfect example of what Saint Paul wrote about years later about how God does not see divisions, but all are one in Christ. 

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  (Colossians 3 v.11)

The passage tells us in verse 1 that Naaman had leprosy, although the footnote adds that the Hebrew for leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin.  Not only would the ailment have been physically uncomfortable for Naaman, but he would have been the talking point of all the neighbours and the object of lots of unkind stares.  His wife would also have been very distressed and at a loss to know how to comfort her husband.  It is of course the easy option when someone is distressed to just ignore them, and I’m sure that many of Mrs Naaman’s friends and other servants did that - thinking that it was the best thing to do, but not the servant girl.  Look at the feeling with which she spoke in verse 3.   If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.  There is real passion in her plea, and as a result Naaman went to the king and told him what the girl from Israel had said and, on her recommendation, the king sent him to see the prophet.  I can’t imagine a modern politician revealing a new strategy with the words “I got this idea from my wife’s servant girl”, but Naaman did because the girl had made such an impression. 

We are not all called to be leaders, and we are not necessarily called to be famous or named, but we are called to be servants, and as a servant we can all play a part.  If this girl had kept silent, had never spoken out to Naaman's wife, then the wife wouldn't have spoken to Naaman, Naaman wouldn't have spoken to the king, the king wouldn't have sent him to Israel, Naaman wouldn't have been healed and finally come to know God for himself. 

God doesn’t call us to do the impossible but calls us to do things we can manage and be obedient to them.  Like the servant girl – she in her small corner and you in yours.

Bible Study

On Wednesday 26th August at 7.15pm for 7.30pm start

All are welcome to join in and if you do not have internet you can join us over the phone.  The details of how to do so are on last week’s chapter. We are continuing a series called Meeting God in Waiting. The passage is Habakkuk 3 v.1-2 and17-19 “Waiting in prayer”,

If you prefer to do this Bible Study at home, then read the passage several times and consider the following points.

  1. What does Habakkuk ask of God?
  2. What commitment does Habakkuk make to God?
  3. Looking at the list of disasters in v.17, what would be an equivalent list for you?
  4. What would your natural reaction be toward God if these disasters happened to you?
  5. In what ways does God help Habakkuk according to v.19?
  6. What makes it possible for you to trust God in the face of difficulties?
  7. Is there any current difficulty that you are waiting for God to help you with?
  8. What do you want to ask of God?  What commitment will you make and what will you remember about God at this time?

Songs for Sunday

1. Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see;
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.

2. A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then, the heav’n espy.

3. All may of thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean,
Which, with this tincture, “For thy sake”,
Will not grow bright and clean.

4. A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.

5. This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be sold.

George Herbert (1593-1633)
CCLI #5638

1. From the sun’s rising
unto the sun’s setting,
Jesus our Lord
shall be great in the earth;
and all earth’s kingdoms
shall be His dominion,
all of creation
shall sing of His worth.

Let every heart, every voice,
every tongue join with spirits ablaze;
one in His love,
we will circle the world
with the song of His praise.
O let all His people rejoice,
and let all the earth hear His voice!

2. To every tongue, tribe
and nation He sends us,
to make disciples,
to teach and baptise.
for all authority
to Him is given;
now as His witnesses
we shall arise.

3. Come let us join with
the church from all nations,
cross every border,
throw wide every door;
workers with Him
as He gathers His harvest,
till earth’s far corners
our Saviour adore.

Graham Kendrick
1988 Make Way Music CCLI #5638

Prayers (Taken from Anglican prayers about the outbreak)

Let us pray to the Lord,
who is our refuge and stronghold. 

For the health and well-being of our nation,
that all who are fearful and anxious
may be at peace and free from worry:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us. 

For the isolated and housebound,
that we may be alert to their needs,
and care for them in their vulnerability:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us. 

For our homes and families,
our schools and young people,
and all in any kind of need or distress:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us. 

For a blessing on our local community,
that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship,
where all are known and cared for:
Lord, hear us,
Lord, graciously hear us. 

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God. 
Merciful Father,
accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. 

Prayer Requests

We are asked to pray for “Ringstead Shared Church” and their minister Rev David Shaw

Also this week please pray for the work of “Baptist Union Home Mission” which supports churches and ministries in this country.

Next week

In our reflection we will continue looking at Biblical situations of lockdown by looking at the evangelist Philip and the growth of the early church in lockdown in Acts 8 v.1-8