Rocky Road Epistles Chapter 2

Rocky Road Epistle 25th March 2020

Chapter 2

Welcome to chapter 2 of the Rocky Road Epistle.

Here is the Bible Reading from the Prayer Diary for Tuesday, 24 March 2020.  It seems a good way to start,

2 Corinthians 4 v.16 to 18

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

It has been super to speak to quite a few of you this week on the phone and to hear of people ringing one another.  It is good to encourage each other in these times.  Let us keep on phoning and praying for everyone connected to RRBC. 

Passage for next week is Matthew 21 v.1-27

Reflection on Romans 8 v.28-39

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one.  Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

At this current time all of society is feeling physically separated, I found it sad on Mothering Sunday not to be gathering with the church nor to have my children visiting.  Yet as a family of God we were, and continue to be, in touch in other ways.  Despite some selfish behaviour of a few in society, there seems to be growing sense of cooperation and a rise of people looking out for each other.  We were a fractured society where the sense of community was being eroded, God is at work stirring people’s hearts.

More than this, as the reading points out in verse 37, nothing can separate us from God’s love, nothing that happens as a result of this virus, nothing that we are worrying about, nothing that has hurt us and nothing that we are struggling with at the moment.  We can be more than conquerors through Jesus at work in our lives.

I know I am going backwards through the passage, but just notice (verses 35 and 36) these are the situations where we are more that conquerors.  The list includes persecution, famine and danger.  It is in difficulties, in times of suffering, that God works very powerfully in our lives.  We are all in the same boat as each other and as the rest of society.  We know that we are all in this together and in our suffering we have the God given chance to reach out to those around who are also struggling.

The American writer Richard Rohr writes about suffering in solidarity “The ‘cross’, rightly understood, always reveals various kinds of resurrection.  It’s as if God were holding up the crucifixion as a cosmic object lesson, saying: ‘I know this is what you’re experiencing.  Don’t run from it.  Learn from it, as I did.  Hang there for a while, as I did.  It will be your teacher.  Rather than losing life, you will be gaining a larger life.  It is the way through.’ As impossible as that might feel right now, I absolutely believe that it’s true.” Jesus suffered on the cross, He knows what suffering is like, for Him it ended with separation from His Father and death.  Yet because of His suffering, death and resurrection we will not be separated from God’s love especially in suffering.

Re-read v.31-34, it is only as we fix our eyes on Jesus that we will get through these days.  But we can rejoice in God, since as verse 28 reminds us; in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.  Or as JB Phillips has it in his paraphrase “Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.” God brings good in all situations; we can trust Him in any and every situation and hence rejoice whatever happens.

Finish this reflection with the words of a hymn by Fred Pratt Green

Lord, in our lonely hours,
and when our spirit faints,
we are encouraged by your life,
and by your saints.
If we've no breath for praise,
no thoughts to frame a prayer,
we know you need no words of ours
to prompt your care.

If in excess of pain,
or grief, we stammer "Why?"
It comforts us that on your cross
this was your cry.
Yet, in serenest faith,
transforming Calvary,
you trusted in the Father's love -
and so must we.

Fred Pratt Green Words © 1989 Stainer and Bell Ltd

Prayer

From Churches Together - A prayer for those affected by coronavirus

God, our rock and shield, we pray for our land, and all nations and places in our world, as many endure the effects of the illness Covid-19 and the Coronavirus pandemic.

For those who are ill, grant healing;

for those who mourn the death of loved ones, bring comfort;

for those who care for the sick, grant strength and endurance;

for those who are isolated or whose livelihoods are threatened, give courage and hope;

for all who take difficult decisions, from governments to health practitioners, give wisdom and compassion to accompany the knowledge and experience that they bring.

Deliver us from this disease, we pray, and enable all nations and communities to grow in collaboration and unity as we face this challenge together.

Grant a legacy of enduring common purpose in facing all that threatens our global common good.

We pray in Jesus' name, in the unity of the Spirit, Amen.

Prayer from Richard Rohr,

O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us.  May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings.  Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory.  Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world.  [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.

Encouragement in prayer

  • On a Sunday morning, around 10.45am, take time to pray, read the week’s passage & reflection and even sing a song or hymn loudly (sorry neighbours!).  Plus around 11am say the Lord’s Prayer (Pauline’s suggestion).
  • On a weekday morning around 10am pause to pray for a few minutes, use the prayer diary or the directory to pray for a few people from our fellowship as well those you are concerned for.  Again finish that session with the Lord’s prayer.
  • Use the prayer diary which has Bible readings on weekdays
  • If you have internet then the RRBC web site has a daily Bible reading. 
  • In addition there is the RRBC Face Book, thanks to Nick and Roy for all they do in maintaining the web site and face book page.

Suggestions

  • Don’t forget there is a 15-minute Daily Service on Radio 4 Long Wave at 9.45am.
  • There is a service on Sunday morning on Radio 4 at 8.10am and a virtual service on BBC 1 at 11.45am. As well as “Songs of Praise”.
  • Jane and David recommend Premier Radio as another source of encouragement.
  • Rita suggest two passages for encouragement Isaiah 41 v.10-13 and Deuteronomy 31 v.8, lastly Glenys has valued Psalm 91.
  • If you want to pass on any words of encouragement - please let me know.

Notices

As most of you will have heard Christine Taylor’s committal is on Friday 27th at 2.30pm, we are limited on who can come.  If you get this in time Roy has made the excellent suggestion to pray and give thanks at 2.30pm, if this comes too late then you can still pray and give thanks, especially remembering Christine’s friends at Highfields Home who cannot come and wanted to.  We will have a service to celebrate Christine’s life as soon as we are able to.

Hymn

A hymn often used on this Sunday, which is traditionally called Passion Sunday, was written by Samuel Crossman.  Samuel was born in Suffolk in 1624 and lived through difficult times; the English civil war, the Republic under Cromwell and the reinstatement of the monarchy.  An Anglican minister, he served both an Anglican parish in Sudbury, and a Puritan congregation.  He later went on to become Dean of Bristol Cathedral.  His hymn comes from a short book of poems - The Young Man’s Meditation (1664) and appeared for the first time as a hymn in 1686, just two years after the author’s death.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be,
O who am I
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

He came from his blest throne,
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know.
But O, my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend!

Sometimes they strew his way,
And his sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King.
Then ‘Crucify!’
Is all their breath,
And for his death
They thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries!
Yet they at these
Themselves displease,
and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise, and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful he
To suffering goes,
That he his foes
From thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb
wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing.
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like thine!
This is my Friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend.

Finally, some words from Henri Nouwen:
“Hope frees us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us.”