Church Closed

The Holy Spirit and the Church

Alain Emerson -The Holy Spirit and the Church

The Holy Spirit is the one who ushers in the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is present, although often hidden, in the church. The Holy Spirit is the one through whom God actively loves us in time. The Spirit is the way that the Trinity is revealed to us, pointing us always to the truth embodied in the Crucified, and leading us to the Father. By Godʼs love, we live in the Age of the Spirit, that new time in which the church exists and testifies to the world that our time is not our own. God has taken time for us and the sign of that divine intrusion is the Holy Spirit at work in the church that lives and works in the world. God through the Spirit draws us into the life of the Trinity, forming the people of God. The Spirit chooses to have a body on which the Spirit can rest. That body turns out to be called “church.”


In recent years, it has become common to talk about the church as both ‘gathered’ and ‘scattered.’ It’s helpful language in many ways as most will concur that church should be both a gathered community and a scattered dispersion of Jesus followers in their local communities. Often though this language becomes fashionable, impressive coffee-shop conversation focused more on how to ‘program’ both gathered and scattered expressions, but lacking the creative leading of the Holy Spirit. I’ve also heard it said you need to choose what kind of model you want to be—a city on a hill (emphasis on gathered expression of church, implying a well-oiled machine of great Sundays and a ministry program menu to back it up) or the salt of the earth (emphasis on scattered church expressions—‘church-wherever-we-are’ types and the dispersion of everyday missionaries into the spheres of influence).

I have always thought, Why not both? Is this not the biblical mandate? And I wonder if our pre-Covid church categories and cultural Christianity of 21st Century forced us too rigidly into one model, or often motivated us to establish one in reaction to the other? Is this season of deconstruction allowing us to reframe our understanding of church and re-centre our ecclesiology on something more akin to the normative patterns of the New Testament.

Our theology / ecclesiology is so important here. First of all, we are primarily the redeemed people of God, sinners rescued from darkness to form a new ‘covenant’ community based on the sacrificial love of Jesus. We are an alternative community, the ‘one new humanity’ living in this world as a counter-cultural vision of kingdom family, a signpost of how people will live together forever in the new heaven and earth. Sacrificial Love is therefore the axis for everything this community does and is. As Jesus taught us ‘people will know we are His if we love one another’ as he loves us. We are not just a random set of individuals scattered all over the place colliding once a week for some fellowship and pep-talk. The church is a people, a one-minded, one-hearted family baptised into one Spirit.

I am coming to realise that many streams of the church have focused on individual conversion and individual spiritual formation and even individual evangelism at the expense of building an actual community of the Holy Spirit. Remember the desert fathers who taught us the importance of solitude (monk, comes from ‘monos’ which means ‘alone’) and counter cultural spiritual formation in an empire-compromised church reached the point where they realised a life spent completely ‘solitary’ could only take them so far in their spiritual journey! Basically, they realised they needed other people to truly grow and thus the inspiring individual spiritual lives of St Anthony and others soon developed into inspiring spiritual communities. As John Finny put it – “the cells [of the Egyptian desert] became clumps (groups of monks meeting for fellowship) and the clumps became communities (the birthplace of communal monasticism as we know now it).”[2] In this context Jesus-followers became committed to a healthier form of spiritual formation. The raw elements of these communities intrigued the masses, from the poor and destitute to kings and queens and the DNA of these communities was exported into the soil of many nations all around Europe resulting in a meta-change in the cultural landscape.

My point is that as much as we, in the charismatic church, want to see a dispersion of scattered servants, carrying kingdom authority into every sphere of influence, gossiping the ‘good news’, healing the sick and confronting the powers and as much as we want to break the over-emphasised institutionalised form of the church (I get it!), we should not allow our reaction to this to pay less attention to the gathered church and its corporeal reality. The early church never assumed that ‘kingdom work’ could be done as isolated individuals, who simply ‘checked-in’ with one another for church on Sunday or worse simply watched an ‘online’ service. Rather the corollary to the spontaneous expansion of the early church was small communities of believers learning how to become one in Christ so they could reflect the life of Christ in the world.

Contrary to what many of us may think, it’s hard to deny Jesus spent as much time forming a community as he did proclaiming good news! This of course is not a dichotomy we need to force but rather a recognition that the proclamation of the kingdom flows from the formation of a Christlike community—Family on Mission. We can only accurately display the kingdom of God when we are committed to the community of the King because the community gives credibility to verbal proclamation. The one new humanity is what God is establishing on the earth to give glory to Himself. Of course, we are not talking about an insular-looking cozy community serving its own needs – rather a family loving one another into Christ-likeness, empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news of the kingdom and to push back the kingdom of darkness. We must encourage everyone to do the work of the evangelist – but we must not forget the church as community is an evangelist—the body of Christ on earth, witnessing to his saving grace. Further the church is more than God’s agent of evangelism of social justice in the world, it is the agent of God’s entire cosmic purpose (Eph 3:10). The church’s pattern of life and commitment to loving one another serves as a countercultural structure to the political and social structures of the day. As Karl Barth describes, the church is ‘the provisional representation of the sanctification of all humanity.’[3] Therefore in its very ‘being’ the church should be prophetic and evangelistic.

Yes, we must absolutely equip the church to scatter into society and leaven the lump of the world, not ‘demanding’ or ‘imposing’ change but scattering the seeds of truth in the way (sacrificial love) of Jesus Christ—a love more powerful than any of the sin-systems of this world, even death itself! These seeds will plant roots in society and bring forth the fruit of change in the world. But where community is lacking and where there are no environments to nourish, the leaven can often become inactive and loses its flavour. In this season of lockdown and restrictions, with a lack of gathered environments, we are in danger of the church ‘losing its flavour’ as, in my experience ‘online church’ is not able to ‘salt’ God’s people as much as actual ‘sacramental’ community.

Practically, therefore, we need to adapt and think about how we establish our churches in these days which are built around family and where spiritual formation in the way of Jesus continues to happen in community, where it was also supposed to! This of course is more challenging in days of lockdown and restrictions, but what if we have an opportunity to make these environments better than what they were pre-Covid. While there are a host of advantages to how we pivot our technology in this season there is also the danger that church becomes even more a ‘spectator sport’ than it was pre-Covid! I really believe if we work hard, reform our patterns and gathered environments to engage more people in smaller, participatory groups built around Word and Spirit dynamics and establish these groups on the principles of discipleship and mission (the Great Commission), this could be an incredible moment for the church. What if we can maximise the opportunities to build these type of environments in this season, even if it is online, so at least the principles and practices are in place for once we get out of restrictions? If the last reformation put the word of God into people’s hands what if this is an opportunity to put it into people’s hearts?

If you are unsure how to do this, ask the Holy Spirit and give yourself to more rigorous Biblical reflection on the New Testament with your leadership team. The Holy Spirit specialises in granting wisdom for how the church is established and as we submit ourselves to the scriptures He will guide you in these uncertain but full-of-opportunity days! Ephesians 3:8-10 reminds us God grants those who are called to lead and serve His church a ‘mysterious’ wisdom in the administration (or planning /‘architecting’) of the ‘household of faith.’ Look to Him. He’s been waiting for a chance for us to put down the church growth books, break the clergy-laity divide, surrender whole-heartedly to His leading and pick up the New Testament again – it’s all in there! Also be aware of who God has placed in your church body; doubtless there are many mature people who haven’t yet been empowered, equipped, and challenged to lead and disciple others. Maybe now is the chance to deploy them into service – take a risk, call them into action alongside you and go for it! A new wineskin built on the reality of the priesthood of all believers, the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the radical servanthood of the Spirit of Jesus.

Maybe this is our reformation?

[1] Stanley Hauerwas and William H Willimon, The Holy Spirit (Abingdon, 2015).

[2] John Finny, Recovering the Past (Celtic and Roman Mission), (Darton,Longman & Todd, 2013)

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics v. 4: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. eds. Geoffrey William Bromiley and Thomas Forsyth Torrance (Edinburgh T. & T. Clark, 1958-1962), 614.

Alain Emerson WTC FacultyI’m Alain Emerson and I live in Northern Ireland where I help lead Emmanuel Church and also provide leadership for 24-7 Prayer in Ireland. I have the privilege of teaching at WTC on the module, ‘Shapes of the Church: Past, Present and Future,’ which is part of the Church Planting and Leadership Programme. As someone who has grown up in the
church and found myself in church leadership most of my adult life, I have a passion to see the body of Christ become all it was destined to be. I am fascinated by the many shapes of the church which have emerged throughout the centuries and the current
conversation. This has informed and inspired my own practice as a church leader, church planter and overseer over a network of churches. During these unique Covid days, I am convinced the Spirit is giving us an opportunity to reform many of our structures and patterns and yet the theological framework upon which we establish this is of utmost importance. This is a small contribution to the on-going conversation.


TheoMisc Blog

Theological Miscellany is a blog where we post a variety of theological reflections on scripture, life, culture, politics, society, gender, and pretty much anything. WTC attracts a whole range of people as students and a wide range of faculty from around the world with different interests and theological leanings. What draws us all together is our commitment to a Christ-centred theology, taught in a Spirit-led fashion in partnership with the local church.

Find all posts HERE

Come and Study With Us

WTC TheologyOur study of theology means engaging with a Kingdom that is powerful and transformational.

We offer programmes in ‘Kingdom Theology’ because at the heart of our study is the belief that Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Through his life, death, and resurrection, he has brought the reality of the Kingdom to this world.

Find out more about WTC Programmes HERE.


Praise as Defiance in the Face of Suffering and Death

Catherine Delve - Praise as Defiance in the Face of Suffering and Death

Praise as Default

Ever since I was a child, I’ve known something of the power of praise. Praise was a default after my dad walked out, albeit after 24 hours once the initial shock had passed. It seemed something of a rebellious act—my own small act of rebellion in the face of disaster and grief. And it has seemed like this at multiple times since, when all appeared to be lost. Whether close to bankruptcy (a fair few times), or dealing with the onset of a chronic health condition in my 30s (which threatened to lead to confinement to a wheelchair), facing the seemingly impossible has been a regular occurrence in my life, as I’m sure it probably has been in yours too.

When Paul and Silas found themselves in prison in Acts 16:25, facing the injustice and humiliation of a Roman flogging and having their feet restrained in stocks, their response was to praise God. I can’t imagine that this was praise born out of thanksgiving for the situation in which they found themselves. A Roman flogging was not like a tame rap on the knuckles. It was a brutal act; their backs were likely torn and bleeding. They would have been in terrible pain and discomfort. Nonetheless, they continued to believe that God was exactly who he said he was, and they praised him as a result. As they did so, something powerful was released. There was an earthquake and the prison doors flew open! Freedom manifested itself.

In the West, our challenges are normally less extreme, but nonetheless they are real. But now, the unparalleled and testing times we find ourselves in globally as a result of the coronavirus are stretching many of us to our limits, and for many, are extreme. The grief of the loss of loved ones, the feelings of loss of control, the sudden loss of income for so many, and uncertainty about the future presses in on every side. It is so easy at times like this to feel blind-sided by our circumstances and to be overcome by fear or anxiety. Equally, it is easy to question where is God in all of this. Where are you God when I can’t seem to see you or feel you? And indeed, who are you, God? Can I trust that you are good, that your mercy is new every morning?

NT Wright wrote an insightful piece recently (you can read it here), which despite its clickbait title, helpfully encourages us to join God in lamenting the tragedies which overwhelm us. As my friend and OT scholar Matt Lynch has already identified, the charismatic church doesn’t really know how to lament if the lyrics of the top one hundred songs in contemporary Christian music are anything to go by.[1] Now would be as good a time as any other for us to focus on developing this. However, what our tradition is much better at is eschatological hope. Consider some of the songs of the moment: Raise a Hallelujah, Way Maker, God of Revival, Good Grace to name but a few.[2] Much of our sung congregational worship is of this ilk. Perhaps we could even say that this trend in contemporary Christian music has led us to build a somewhat lopsided tradition which knows how to do declaration and hope, but knows less how to do reverence or lament.

In times such as these, this lopsidedness poses challenges and demands that we become more thoughtful and nuanced in what we are singing and why. Sometimes it is very challenging to sing songs of hope when hope is in danger of being drowned out by fear and death. Is it even appropriate to sing songs like this when people are dying, businesses are failing, many of the self-employed have lost their incomes overnight, and victims of domestic violence are in lockdown with their abusers and more at risk than ever? Isn’t this type of worship triumphalistic and naive?

I would like to suggest that just as Paul and Silas raised their voices to sing while they were in prison, we could do the same whatever our ‘prison’ is. It is at times like this in particular that we need to hold onto our hope more than ever. Do we really believe and trust that God is who he says he is and that he will accomplish all he has promised? This is not inappropriate triumphalism. We may not see the realisation of his promises in our own lives this side of eternity, but we pray in the promises for the world nonetheless. That is where our faith is truly tested and stretched. Just as Israel questioned where YHWH had gone in their time of exile, we may well wonder where God is, but let’s not be mistaken in believing that God has abandoned us. Now is the time for us to put our hope squarely in the right place. It is not about being naive. People are dying and will continue to, whether from Covid-19 or of something else, despite our best efforts (rightly so) to prevent it. However, one day I will die, and one day you will die! The essence of our faith is trusting that death does not have the final word.

However, praise as a form of defiance is not just about declarations of hope. It is also about resisting the powers. Twentieth-century theologian, William Stringfellow, brilliantly articulates the reality of the principalities and powers as aligned with either the power of death or the power of life.[3] He observed that war is a symptom of death, and not the other way around, i.e. death is not a symptom of war. This same logic applies to Covid-19. This virus is a symptom of the power of death powerfully at work in our world. Death is not a result of the coronavirus. The coronavirus is the result of death. As such, our resistance as Christians is against the manifestation of death in all its forms, rooted in the hope we have that death has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ on the cross.

Thus praise is our defiance in the face of death. Praise is our small act of rebellion in the face of fear, loss, grief and isolation. Except it is not a small act, it’s a powerful one. The power of the resurrection life of Jesus cannot be contained. The tomb couldn’t contain him; nothing since has contained him. Whatever state the church has been in—whether limping or running, colluding or serving, complicit or cooperating, defeated or empowered by the Spirit—the resurrection power of Jesus has broken through. My faith and yours are a testament to this.

So today, tomorrow and for as long as my body has breath in it, my praise will continue to be my powerful act of rebellion and defiance—rebellion against the power of death, and against the power of fear. I encourage you to try it! Even when it’s a sacrifice, even when I’m grief-stricken, even when I feel weak and out of control, I will declare with every fibre of my being that Jesus has overcome the power of sin and death. While taking faltering steps towards a better co-expression of joy, pain, reverence and hope, my cry is ‘Come Lord Jesus, come.’ In my life, in the lives of those in my household, in the life of the church, in the life of my neighbours, in the life of all in my city and nation, in the nations. Come on, Church! I believe this. We believe this. Now is the time to raise our corporate voice, our corporate and powerful act of rebellion against the power and fear of death.


TheoMisc Blog

Theological Miscellany is a blog where we post a variety of theological reflections on scripture, life, culture, politics, society, gender, and pretty much anything. WTC attracts a whole range of people as students and a wide range of faculty from around the world with different interests and theological leanings. What draws us all together is our commitment to a Christ-centred theology, taught in a Spirit-led fashion in partnership with the local church.

Find all posts HERE

Come and Study With Us

WTC TheologyOur study of theology means engaging with a Kingdom that is powerful and transformational.

We offer programmes in ‘Kingdom Theology’ because at the heart of our study is the belief that Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Through his life, death, and resurrection, he has brought the reality of the Kingdom to this world.

Find out more about WTC Programmes HERE.


Charismatic Christians, Crisis, and Coronavirus: Part III

This is the third post in the series on Charismatic Christians, Crisis, and Coronavirus. For part one of this series go HERE. For part two of this series go HERE.

What Happened to 2,000 Years?

I love history and wish I had studied more of it in my life. I’m a bit shocked, if I’m honest, at how little history we all know, how little general history and how little Christian history. I remember one of my professors (a Roman Catholic) at King’s College saying that Charismatics and Pentecostals concertinaed time because we look back to the Bible and then map it straight on to today as if there was nothing in between. It’s so true. It means that now, Charismatics are looking to the Bible to make sense of what’s happening, and the results of trying to find guidance for this specific time can be a stretch. What would help us would be to speak to our historians who will provide us with some valuable resources from history that are much more specific to our situation because Christians have lived through plagues before. For a really good example of this see Bruce Hindmarsh’s post on the history of the church and plagues here.

One example that struck me is from Cyprian of Carthage (c.200-258 AD). He himself was martyred, but in the years before he was executed, also endured a plague. He writes about this in one of his Treatises (Treatise 7) on the question of mortality. In this piece of writing to the church, he encourages Christians to see their lives in the perspective of eternity and all that lies before us. For it is immortality ‘that is our peace, that our faithful tranquillity, that our steadfast, and abiding, and perpetual security.’ (§3)

Just like Christians today, many were clearly disturbed that being in Christ didn’t afford them any special physical protection from the disease. ‘But nevertheless it disturbs some that the power of this Disease attacks our people equally with the heathens, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills; and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy.’ Famine, war, rain, drought, shipwreck make no distinction. ‘…and the disease of the eyes, and the attack of fevers, and the feebleness of all the limbs is common to us with others, so long as this common flesh of ours is borne by us in the world.’ (§8)

What is more important, according to Cyprian, is how we behave now. Some Christians like to claim that disasters are God’s judgement on the earth for the folly of humanity. In this treatise, Cyprian is saying that the judgement that falls on the human race is how the sickness and trial exposes our true motives. We are judged by how we respond. He writes this, ‘And further, beloved brethren, what is it, what a great thing is it, how pertinent, how necessary, that pestilence and plague which seems horrible and deadly, searches out the righteousness of each one, and examines the minds of the human race, to see whether they who are in health tend the sick; whether relations affectionately love their kindred; whether masters pity their languishing servants; whether physicians do not forsake the beseeching patients; whether the fierce suppress their violence; whether the rapacious can quench the ever insatiable ardour of their raging avarice even by the fear of death; whether the haughty bend their neck; whether the wicked soften their boldness; whether, when their dear ones perish, the rich, even then bestow anything, and give, when they are to die without heirs.’ (§16)

Apparently, doctors would flee the plague, relatives would dump their kin out of their houses even before they had died, and the rich would leave the cities for the country. Christians, on the other hand, have been known at many times throughout history for being highly sacrificial, tending the sick, and caring for the vulnerable, many becoming sick themselves. It is very sobering to think that this is what healthcare workers are doing all around the globe at this very moment, many of them while they wait for the correct equipment and having to make do with protective equipment that places them at risk. We are deeply indebted to them. I pray daily for the equipment to reach them and for proper testing. Nobody should have to take unnecessary risks, and I’m not advocating that Christians rush in to treat Corona victims! But we can be seen to be behaving out of a spirit of generosity and trust. How is this situation searching out the righteousness of each one? If we have two toilet rolls and our neighbour has none, we should give one away. Aren’t we the people who believe that God will give us our daily bread? I read a poignant article by an Italian novelist in Rome who wrote this about her experience of lockdown, ‘The true nature of the people around you will be revealed with total clarity. You will have confirmations and surprises.’[1]

Christian Leadership in a Time of Crisis

We want our world leaders to take control and to find solutions to this massive problem. We want them to save lives, to act wisely and quickly, to put structures in place that will save future generations from making the same mistakes as we have done. We also want this for our Christian leaders. We need wisdom and comfort, faithful and wise decisions, and protection from making mistakes that will wound the next generation. The key thing now is that we don’t sell a false comfort or mislead people in their expectations so that they are then either bitterly disappointed, completely worn out, or forced into denial. I would recommend reading a recent blog post by James McGrath on “What Does the Bible Say about Coronavirus?” for a reminder of the dangers of false promises in the face of hardship. If we do this, as he says, we run the risk of ‘making a serious crisis worse by adding, on top of the illness itself, a long-term negative effect on your own faith and that of others.’ [2]

The Lord is My Salvation

Our faith and our scriptures teach us that real safety, security, and certainty can only be found in a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we are promised that these things are our spiritual inheritance, the riches given to our inner beings, our minds, and hearts, and souls, but not necessarily evident in our circumstances and the world around us. When we search the scriptures for comfort, we find that God promises to be our shelter, our rock, and our fortress. He will never leave us or forsake us. He alone is our salvation. We can also find scriptures that promise us that he’ll shelter us under the shadow of his wing, and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God in Christ. But we will be hard-pressed to find scriptures that promise us we won’t have trouble and hardship in our lives or that we won’t find ourselves in the midst of them. When everything in our world is shaking, he is our ever-present help in the midst of trouble (Ps 46:1).

The reality is that human life is precarious and unstable. The world can be a beautiful and a dangerous place and nothing in it belongs to us to hold on to forever, not even our own lives. This has always been true for every human being that has ever lived. It’s only when the reality sinks in that we cry out in protest because in our inmost beings; we don’t want it to be true. But the Christian faith gives the deepest answer to that cry of pain and fear at the uncertainties of life. Christians, along with non-Christians, get caught up in the cataclysmic events of history as well as the everyday struggles and challenges of life. There is no difference in the conditions of existence. The difference is supposed to be where we find our sure and certain hope, and the most important hope that we have by far is that this is not the only life. This is not the only world. Jesus came to offer a far, far better world to come in which God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, no more plagues and disease, no mourning or crying or pain, for the first things will have passed away (Rev. 21:3-5). This is the hope we have that no one and nothing can take away from us. God’s love poured out into the world through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit is precisely so that death won’t have the last word, but that it will be the beginning of a beautiful, new, whole, free, forgiven, life. That’s the wonderfully good news.

And The Creation Is Still Good…

I led the staff devotions the week we went into lockdown and I’ll admit it was a challenge to lead our first staff devotions together since the world had changed so suddenly all around us. I deliberated for a long time on which passage I wanted us to look at together. In the end I chose Genesis 1:26-2:3. I chose it for what it tells us about God, what it tells us about us, and what it tells us about creation. It tells us that the world is in his hands because it is his, he made it, and he is watching over us. We belong to him and he is the author of life. It tells us that when he made creation, he made it good, and when he made humanity, they were very good. What we are seeing now is bad. It is threatening to life, and frightening, and out of our control. It’s impossible to answer the ‘why’ questions, but Genesis does tell us that the fall gave rise to disharmony, brokenness, and evil. What was first intricately and beautifully connected is broken and twisted and the relations between humanity and God, human beings with one another, and humanity and creation are alienated and fractured.

But the Bible also tells us that God created human beings to govern the creation under his watchful care and so it doesn’t surprise me that what we are doing more than anything else right now is trying to bring this threatening and hostile aspect of creation under our control in every way we can. We know that to some extent, we are powerless, but we also know that if we can find a vaccine, if we can change the way we behave, if we can find a treatment, that we can defeat this hidden predator and save lives. As societies, we are offended by those who are not helping or making things worse. We know that the key to winning this war is good and wise management and so we take encouragement from various things:

  • Scientists are working around the clock to find cures and a vaccine for which we are grateful.
  • Specialists and experts are coming forward to advise governments and all of us on how we should tackle this.
  • We can learn lessons from this that will protect future generations from this sort of scenario ever happening again.
  • People in all places are displaying righteousness in one form or another. I’ve been so impressed by how sacrificial some companies have been at protecting their workers, protecting the elderly, caring for the vulnerable.

Linked to this was another reason that I chose this passage. In the week leading up the devotions I was horrified by the rhetoric coming out of the US about the over 70s being expendable because they were no longer working and contributing to the economy. As I read through Genesis 1 and 2 and I got to the part where God himself establishes the Sabbath and rests so that his people would learn to rest, it struck me how wicked it is to imagine that those who cannot ‘work’ to earn money should be seen as having nothing to contribute to society. The Sabbath rhythm demonstrates that one of the rewards for older people, who have worked through their lives, is that they should have time to rest, to spend time with their families, and be honoured just for who they are. I can’t describe how much my own parents gave to us and to our children in their 70s. I can’t express how grateful and blessed we all were to have them, their wisdom, their fun now that they were retired, their home that was a place where we could all flop and rest ourselves. Our children adored their grandparents and had the invaluable gift of being the centre of their worlds and the pride of their lives.

But even then, even if they hadn’t given us anything, it would have been a privilege to have them in our lives. I don’t want to live in a society where people forget that to care for people who cannot care back is a privilege for the carer. It is also something we may all need one day and so it reminds us of our own sense of frailty and dependence. It forms us in ways that nothing else can and challenges all of our selfish, utilitarian impulses. It reminds us to value a life because it is a life and God has breathed it into being. It makes us more Christlike and thus, more human. If we, for a second, imagine that we would be better off without the elderly and the vulnerable we have completely forgotten who we are and what we were made for and we have lost our Christian foundations altogether.

The Lord is My Shepherd

Back in January, at our residential, one of my colleagues, Freddy Hedley, led us in a devotion that I found deeply moving. I have to admit that my heart sank a bit when he said he was going to lead us in a meditation. I’m normally really bad at anything that looks like meditation because my mind is too restless, but this time was different. I felt as if we were on holy ground. Freddy shared that he had found it hard to sleep the night before, but that instead of fretting and worrying or turning on his computer or phone, he had decided that he would lie there and meditate on Psalm 23. He repeated it over and over until he fell asleep. The next day he led us as a college in the same meditation, repeating the Psalm slowly and deliberately over us. I think he spoke it out four or five times, each time slower than the last. By the final time, every word seemed to be speaking to us all; it sank into our hearts and our minds. I felt we had been led into God’s transforming presence and it’s stayed with me ever since.

Pray Without Ceasing

I’ll finish where I started and that is with the idea that, for all our faults, at least we Charismatics will be praying. We’ll pray believing that our prayers make a difference and that God can change things. We’ll be praying for governments and nations, families and individuals, businesses and charities, people on the frontline rushed off their feet and people at home on their own. We’ll be praying for healings, for miraculous provision, and for signs and wonders in the times up ahead. Hopefully, we’ll also be doing, caring, reaching out to the vulnerable, the sick, and the elderly. And we’ll be encouraging one another to remain hopeful, to keep giving, and to seek God’s face in the chaos and confusion.

Whatever your circumstances, and whatever you’re facing, I pray,

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

I will finish by letting you read Psalm 23 for yourself. I hope it speaks to you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.


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