In John 15 and 16 we see that Jesus is preparing the followers for what lies ahead - which will be a complete meltdown of their world and their understanding. Jesus knows he will be arrested and cruelly executed. He has been dropping big hints about it, and he knows it will completely shake the world for his disciples.
But here's a thing: Jesus was preparing the disciples so that when it happened he would get through it - I think that the Spirit has been quietly preparing us for the times we now face!
We of course now live in crazy strange times. With Covid-19 life as we know it is being totally re-arranged. Normal services, normal operation of the economy risks a near total disintegration - a complete shaking of the world! Yet I do believe the Spirit has been readying us for this - which I will explain in a moment.
First some initial thoughts about the global effects of the virus. Within the past few months we have had school children mass protesting in our cities, and Extinction Rebellion bringing our city centres to a standstill over climate change. Both have made legitimate points, asking the question "Can we really go on living like this?". Remember climate change won't just kill a few thousand, or even a few tens of thousands - it literally puts millions of lives at risk.
One call from climate protestors has been about our levels of air travel - a key contributor to C02 emissions that we make by our individual decisions. Well guess what - now our air travel is being reduced to almost zero! The human organised protests lasted for a day each, or in some cases days at a time. Curiously now we have something non-human organised that is achieving a global effect that will last for weeks. So we must surely ask ourselves the question: "Is this a wake up call?".
It is natural for all of us, whether we have faith or none, to ask the question "Why?". Mention God and of course the "Why?" question will come up. Let us not pretend that we have the answer - we don't. We have to admit that God seems to be allowing for this to happen. Yet in the question "Why?" we can offer other questions: "Can we really sustain how we were living?", "Do we not need a re-think and transition to something more sustainable?". Maybe this is a jolt (okay, a very very painful jolt) that gives us an opportunity for a re-think? I will talk more on this in coming weeks - but let us remember underneath it all that God is trustworthy. It is okay to question, but we can still hold a quiet trust in Jesus. Hence our new key question and challenge:
Key Qn: [IN] How wide a conduit will you be for the Spirit's testimony?
Challenge: Respond with the words: “I quietly trust in Jesus”
Now back to the Spirit preparing us, Countess Free Church, for this time. Remember for the past several years I have been talking about personal discipleship - our own rhythm and diet, our habits, and discipling others one to one? Recall how for the past several years the leadership team strategy chart has included a whole section on this, encouraging a spiritual depth for each believer young and old?
Well guess what we all need right now? Each person to take responsibility for their own discipleship, to have good healthy habits at home and in the small, likely with just a few others! So remember our four habits: The Discipline of OFF; Share the Walk; Ever Closer to Jesus; and Margin for Jesus.
Firstly the Discipline of OFF - well now that is being forced on us on a national scale! Seriously though, make sure each day you grab intentional off time where you welcome the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. It doesn't have to be complicated - you can use our Celtic prayer resource or some other. Whatever - just have some time before God.
Secondly Share the Walk. First and foremost with your family (you can do this with family even if you are in self-isolation!). If you have children, and you do not already have a practice or rhythm for pausing for prayer as a family already, then start that today. Whether it is before a meal, bed-time, or some other moment, agree 'we are going to pray together' even if just a simple set prayer like grace/thanks before a meal.
The other thing in sharing the walk I want to ask for all of us to make a new fortnightly pattern. Every two weeks please try and contact three types of people. First your prayer partner (or partners if in a triplet). Touch base by phone or txt, pray for each other etc. Second is phone or message someone in church you know (e.g. someone you would likely talk to at a Sunday gathering). Third is phone someone you don't know or less likely to talk to. Just call them up and ask how they are doing, how you might pray for them.
Then in two weeks time repeat: but choose a different person you know and a different person you don't know.
We will talk about the other habits in the future. The other request is to keep a journal - noting your experiences, your prayer asks, and seeing God move. We will work out how to share these in the future.
Finally note that Jesus promises to send His Spirit who will draw alongside. A big thing the Spirit will do is testify to Jesus, and the Spirit will do that through us. Have your quiet trust in Jesus - talk of it in conversation, letting the Spirit testify through you. The key question asks how wide a conduit for the Spirit you will be through these times. You could hunker down and shut off, or you could be open to letting the Spirit work through you.
Until next week ...