Strange things are afoot!

  • Supermarkets are filled with mask-wearers who are not attempting to rob the store.
  • Meeting with another person for the first time is not marked by the shaking of hands; meeting with an old friend is not marked by a hug.
  • Cafés and restaurants have oddly-spaced tables partitioned by Perspex screens.
  • Summer holidays abroad are off the table, unless you are happy with an additional 2 weeks in quarantine on return.
  • Sporting teams play to eerily empty stadiums.
  • The cost of pedigree puppies has sky rocketed – one couple who ordered a Pomeranian online found that the dog on sale was a guinea pig!
  • ‘Hatches, Matches & Dispatches’ are limited to 30 guests.
  • Disrupted education + lack of exams taken = chaos for further education

All this oddness does not inspire me to engage with life: I am not motivated to ‘Do Life’, but rather to ‘Stay Inside’. I am less inclined to ‘Soar like an Eagle’ and more inclined to ‘Headplant like an Ostrich’, burying my head in the sand while trying to forget the troubles of an unwanted and uncomfortable global situation.

I do, however, find it easy to look after my own interests. What can I cope with today? What do I feel like doing today? What can I do this weekend to shut out the nasty reality of an unfamiliar new way of living? What can I treat myself to while my normal consumer pursuits are unavailable – apart from the sweet click of online shopping?

Then I remember that I serve a different master – a Loving King who faced a sickness far worse than Covid19. A faithful friend who tasted death to save my life (Hebrews 2:9). I’m very glad that Jesus didn’t bury His head in the sand when the world was in thick darkness.

In a previous article, I commented that the hallmarks of the virus are identical with those of the destroying deceiver called Satan (steal, kill and destroy) – Covid19 steals and doesn’t give, kills and doesn’t bring life, destroys and doesn’t heal. God’s heart is to gather and bless; Satan wants to scatter and curse.

As a leadership we aim to creatively and intentionally assist the church to connect and gather. More than ever, the world needs to see a visible demonstration of God’s community pulling together and being family. We need each Jubilee member to pray and find God’s voice in this crisis. God is a Caring Shepherd who gathers His people and a Loving Father who builds His family. How can we respond to His call of a gathered church when so many restrictions are in place?

As a church we face the next six months or so unable to gather in large numbers. This means that small really is beautiful! For those shielding and being extra careful we still have Zoom and other internet-based means of communication. For those of us not shielding, how can we gather physically in small groups to encourage each other and plan good works to bless the community? In what ways can we connect effectively in triplets (groups of 3) and pray for the lost and for miracles?

Firstly, I believe we need to understand God’s interests. The apostle Peter switched from his recognition of Jesus as the Messiah to focus on his own personal needs that wanted Jesus physically around. Jesus had to remind Peter:

 “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23 (NASB)

Secondly, I believe we need to catch God’s heart for the gathered church – to the point where we fight in every way possible to meet together in an effective and safe way under the governmental guidance.

Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ‘You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,’ declares the Lord. ‘Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply.'” Jeremiah 23:2-3 (NASB)

Commenting on the future realistically but not pessimistically, I fear that dark days are ahead for many around us. Although we have seen miraculous provision in the shape of new jobs and breakthroughs even during lockdown, elsewhere we are beginning to see waves of redundancies appear as the government furlough scheme comes to an end. As an economy we will of course bounce back and get through this, but the bounce may be a slow crawl rather than a speedy rebound. People around us are going to need support, an encouraging voice, and a helping hand.

Call to action

  • Bring our interests to Jesus and set our minds on His interests, not our own (have you stopped thinking beyond yourself and your family).
  • Call the virus out for what it is – a tool of Satan with all his hallmarks (resist the destructive impact of the virus in prayer).
  • Don’t passively accept these circumstances lying down – FIGHT for God’s heart and God’s desire for His people to gather together (do not become scattered or isolated).
  • As we return from the holiday season be intentional about meeting as home groups and for prayer.
  • Join a prayer triplet.

It is hard to maintain a positive godly view when circumstances are so beyond our control, so strange, and so far from normal. I encourage us to look up to where Christ is seated in heavenly places, hear His voice, and follow our King into victory.

Neil Pattison