Monthly Archives: March 2020

Paul in Isolation

Sudden isolation brings all sorts of unforeseen pressures; we can find ourselves getting bored, frustrated or depressed. So it is helpful when we can find something purposeful to do! Gardening, DIY, and contacting friends we haven’t seen for ages become highlights of our day! Maybe even the forgotten art of letter writing is being rediscovered?

How did the apostle Paul cope with isolation? Imprisoned in Rome, Paul now has time to write all those letters he had meant to write but had been too busy dodging threatening hordes of Pharisees, or being shipwrecked, or flogged, or stoned, or escaping down city walls in a basket. But now, he can put quill to paper and get in touch.

He shakes his manacled wrist and dips the quill in the ink. The guard peers curiously at the blank page as Paul begins, and a blob falls on the pristine page. He sighs. Its difficult to write when you are chained to a soldier. He hears voices outside, a key turns in the lock, and his colleague and adopted son is let in. Timothy! They greet each other joyfully, and then seeing the pen and ink, Timothy asks what he is writing. Paul explains that he wants to communicate with his friends at Philippi, but is hindered by his chain. “Why don’t you dictate to me, and I’ll write it down for you”, suggests Timothy.

Paul brightens immediately, and in a loud voice begins to dictate. “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Philippi: grace and peace to you.” Making sure that the guards can hear clearly, he assures the Christians at Philippi of his love and prayers for them.

He pauses and Timothy waits expectantly. Paul knows that the Philippian church will want news of him too. How much should he say? It is some years now since he saw them and much has happened . However, he doesn’t want to dwell too much on that. After all, he has only been at the centre of a couple of riots, escaped at night from a murderous conspiracy, preached before 2 governors and a king, been flogged, abandoned in a dungeon, shipwrecked… and now is under house arrest in Rome. Not worth mentioning.So he says nothing about all that, eager to get to the exciting stuff!

He turns to Timothy. “Next sentence: “I want you to know, brothers, that what happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel”. Ah! This is the real drama! “ The whole Praetorian Guard knows why I am here, because I preach Christ.” Conscious of a tremor in the muscular arm next to him, he turns and grins at the soldier, who looks embarrassed. Paul knows he is one of the few left who have not yet responded to the Gospel, but it wont be long.

Paul is an apostle, and he knows that his commission has not been revoked by finding himself in jail. It is a change of location and, being no longer mobile, will involve a change in tactics; but the message is the same, and he must now bring it to the Praetorian guard. Paul doesn’t moan that this strange new restriction makes it impossible for him to carry out his ministry. He adapts and finds new ways to do it. He calls himself a servant of Christ Jesus. He didn’t stop being His servant when the handcuffs were clapped on him; he just became a servant in chains, preaching the Gospel in prison, and now he is overjoyed that the Gospel is bearing fruit throughout the whole palace guard! God’s plans, far from being stifled are being wonderfully fulfilled.

This inspired the local church, and they stepped up to the plate and became bolder and more courageous too. But even more remarkable is that the letters he wrote in his confinement not only instructed and encouraged the churches of his day, but have continued to bless the church throughout the succeeding centuries!

Whatever strange and surprising circumstances we find ourselves in, the church is still the church with a message to preach. We must not dwell on the awkwardness of these restricted times, but adapt, and find new avenues to be the servants of the Lord. Who knows what things you are inspired to do which will have far-reaching consequences!

Many creative and innovative ways are already being displayed, voices are being raised in worship, and thousands of people are tuning in online who never normally come to church. God has his ways! Lets pray for an abundant harvest: even more than the whole Praetorian guard!

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Small things

In these strange days of enforced separation, the pace of life has become slower for many of us. It had slowed down a fair bit anyway for Terry and me as we are officially retired, although we travel a lot and Terry preaches most weekends. Or has been. But now, marooned in our house in Sussex, we are having to re-evaluate our lives.

I have discovered that one quickly begins to appreciate small things which render our days more pleasant. For example, yesterday I took advantage of the slot designated for the elderly (really? Me?) at our local Tesco store. I was surprised to find that it was very quiet indeed. Very few people were shopping, which made it easier to walk around without having to make efforts to keep the obligatory 2 meters distance from other shoppers. While some items were in short supply, I was able to purchase enough necessities for the foreseeable future. The lady on the checkout was most friendly and chatty. But what really pleased me most of all was that I was presented with a beautiful bunch of pink and white flowers, left over from Mothers’ day. Altogether, it was a successful, and un-stressful, shopping trip!

I am also grateful that the Water Board sent along a cheerful and hardworking team of men to deal with a persistent leak from the water mains. They dug large holes in the lawn, and filled them in again when they couldn’t find the source of the problem. Eventually they surmised it to be under our garage. They assured us that they would be back this week to fix it, and it might involve breaking up the garage floor. We waited apprehensively, wondering if the limitations imposed by Covid 19 would not allow them to continue, and I had visions of the water gurgling away into a swelling lake beneath our house into which we would gradually subside. But on Tuesday morning, the main guy turned up, and hit on a simple solution which he proceeded to put into practice. Then the other two came and efficiently filled in a hole in the driveway, taking pains to make it look almost as good as new. All three were cheerful, polite and diligent. The main topic of any conversation (conducted at a safe distance of course) was not the virus but the leak, which made a nice change.

These things are not groundbreaking— although I suppose fixing the leak was, technically— but I appreciated the thoughtfulness in both events. Added to that, I am extremely glad that we have a garden, that the sun is shining, and that today I saw a robin, and some blue tits and a wren. I planted some seeds having found some forgotten packs in the shed, and used some forgotten compost and planted them in forgotten pots. Amazing what you find when you have time to potter about!

Small things: but they add to the joy and contentment of life in the slow lane. I know many are distressed, worried and frightened, and we are praying constantly for them to look to the God of all comfort to find strength. But I also hope for many to find that, as the things they had thought to be essential to their well being are no longer available, they will find pleasure and joy in small things which up to now they had taken for granted. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air…..Consider the lilies of the field..” Now we shall have time to do that. It helps!

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