In the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown, this is our 4th week, life is of course very different. COVID-19 continues to spread, like an invisible dark cloud, and an increasing number of people are becoming ill and some tragically lose their lives. The battle is fought on the front line by many brave and courageous key people, and life for most of us has become very different. Sitting in my garden being able to enjoy the amazing weather and blue skies, I couldn’t help notice the absence of traffic noise, the beauty and quietness of creation and the myriad of birds singing.
Scientists are reporting that emissions are reducing (China reported a 25% reduction in their shutdown), we are noticing cleaner air, clearer water, increased wildlife and predictions that our reduced activity will show an increase in wildflowers, insects and bees. Is nature healing and restoring itself?
Our life, for those not on the front line, has taken a different pattern, it’s pace has slowed down, the virus is calling us to examine what is important in our lives, family and friends, our community and neighbours, loved ones who need caring for, health (at the time of writing Captain Tom Moore has raised £21 million for the NHS), food, vital services that are provided to us, and those in need. We are perhaps becoming more compassionate and grateful for what we have and for each other.
Sky News has recently reported on a survey conducted by the Royal Society of Arts, with the Food Foundation, that only 9% of people surveyed would wish to see a return to life as it was before the virus outbreak. 42% are valuing their food and other essentials more, 51% are noticing cleaner air and 27% more wildlife. 40% are noticing the stronger sense of community and 39% are more in contact with friends and family. More than half are looking to make changes in their lifestyles.
We are living in the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ, an event we have only just celebrated on Easter Sunday. It is this event that brings a new life, a new start, a new creation and a new way of living with God. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth (2Corinthians 5:16-21).
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The faithful Christian belongs to Christ, in him we are reconciled to God and are part of his emerging kingdom on earth. Hear the words of ‘In Christ Alone’ written by Stuart Townend with Keith & Kristyn Getty and sung by Lou Fellingham in the YouTube video below.
Those who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and give their lives to him and belong to him, may well sense the movement of God’s Holy Spirit upon us, as the world becomes renewed, reconciled and healed and lives are changed, bringing new perspectives on what is good and right. Jesus told his disciples about the Holy Spirit of God in John 16:7-15.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
There is something new that is happening in the world and a new way of life is emerging. Early Christians were called ‘the followers of the Way’ and filled by the Holy Spirit they met together, worshipped Christ together, broke bread together, prayed together, looked after those in need by selling their own possessions and witnessed many signs of awe and wonder amongst them. (Acts 2:43-47). This was a new way of life in the aggressive and oppressed society they had emerged from. A virtual ‘Spring Harvest’ felt led to concentrate on these passages this year.
The Church, the gathering of faithful Christian people, has not been closed down in this pandemic. Its buildings, where Christians have met, are closed down, but the Church, the ‘Body of Christ’ is not closed down. Something new is emerging. This use of technology and social media to connect one another through the internet in these times of lockdown has brought forward a new way of worshipping and meeting, a new way of praying together, a new way of being encouraged together. More people are joining these virtual Churches than perhaps actually visited the buildings when they were open. The Church is continuing and finding new ways to serve its community and the increasing numbers of those in need. There is a Church emerging anew, alongside the old, and thriving and it actually doesn’t fit into the old way of Church. It is different.
Jesus told the people that something new was bursting out in Mark 2:21-22. He described it as the old, not being able to contain the new, the new was bursting out.
“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
We live in the Resurrected age of Jesus Christ when a new life and a new creation emerges from the sadness of the crucifixion. We live in the age of the Holy Spirit of God, coming amongst us and within us and something new is emerging from the tragedy of the pandemic as the Holy Spirit of God heals, changes, transforms and renews and new life in Christ comes bursting out of the old. We look forward to this new time.
The words of ‘Holy Spirit’ by Phatfish in the YouTube video below, could be our prayer. The words to pray are underneath the video.
Holy Spirit, from before the dawn of time
You have always been the Father’s breath divine
Brooding on the waters
Bringing forth new life
Teaching, guiding, shining out Your light
Making known the mysteries of Christ
And we long to feel you here
Holy Spirit, please draw near
Come, holy fire, burn so free
Your presence purifying me
You glorify the risen One
Sweet Holy Spirit, flow through me;
This glimpse of power, this guarantee
A foretaste of the age to come
Holy Spirit, you’re our counsellor and friend;
Helper, uniter, you’re the One whom Jesus sent
Make me more like Jesus;
Spirit, have free reign
Abba Father, your voice within us cries:
We’re loved and precious in our Father’s eyes
As we give ourselves to you
Holy Spirit, fill this room
Fill me up each day
Fill me up each hour
Fill me with Your love
Fill me with Your power
Help us Lord to be cleansed, healed, transformed and renewed through your Holy Spirit, in these times of anxiety and crisis, and to know where you are moving and calling us to serve, so that your name is known and glorified, in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.