A Pastoral Letter – 20th March 2020
Rev. Donnie G. Macdonald (Moderator of General Assembly)
On Wednesday I did say that we would speak again soon, well here I am again! And we will probably meet like this each week to update you on what is happening as we respond as a church to the challenging situation we are facing. There were lots of things I hoped to be when I grew up, being the Free Church face for a coronavirus was not one of them! But God’s ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. His ways are always good, and his thoughts are always wise. There have been many times in our lives when we have felt confused by what is going on but as we look back, we see the good and wise ways of our God, and so we have learned to trust him. And we continue to trust him, no matter what. At this time when it is important to self-isolate, and reduce contact with others, it is also so important to remember that God has not self-isolated himself from us, and we must not lessen our contact with him. These are strange and worrying times, but think how often God says in the Bible, “don’t be afraid”, and remember that on most occasions it is followed by the words, “because I am with you”. You are not alone, God is your refuge and strength, your ever-present help (Ps 46).
This Sunday will be uncomfortably odd – perhaps for the first time in living memory the doors of your church buildings will be closed, and that does not rest easy with any of us. It is however, absolutely necessary. Already many congregations have arranged to live stream their services so that you can still join in worship using your phone, iPad, laptop or computer. In other places services will go out on local radio. Do make use of these facilities. If you need more info, log on to the Free Church webpage, you will see a tab at the top of the page for ‘online services’, if you click on that you will then see other tabs for each presbytery which will contain information about the services being streamed online in your area. There is a fair selection to choose from, but if at all possible, I would encourage you to remain loyal, even on-line, to your home congregation on a Sunday morning.
Remember too that this Sunday is a Day of Prayer. We are asking you to especially set time aside at 7pm to call out to our God who is the hearer and answerer of prayer. We encourage you to pray for the vulnerable, to ask for God’s wisdom for our decision makers, and also to pray for those on the front lines of health care. Please pray.
We will keep you updated regularly as things progress. For now, we hope to produce devotional videos and articles that you can access online on the Free Church website and on the Free Church Facebook page. I’m going to be ‘man-Friday’, bringing you a devotional message each week, and I look forward to our chats. Others too will be involved, bringing you short messages of encouragement and help from God’s Word during the week, so do check out the webpage regularly.
For today as our first devotional, I thought we would read Psalm 84.
Whatever circumstances we are in, the Bible speaks about it, and speaks into that situation. In Psalm 84 we have someone, who likes ourselves, finds that he is unable to get to church. But that inability to get to the House of God makes him realise a number of things; he loves church, he loves worship, and he loves the Lord. He feels the pain of not being able to attend the place for where his heart longs. However, he also realises that those who trust the Lord, those whose hearts are set on that journey to worship God, that even when they come to Baka’s Valley, a dry and arid location, it turns into a place of fresh-water springs that refreshes them, and gives them the strength to go on. Let’s read it together:
1 How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord Almighty!2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young –a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.9 Look on our shield O God; look with favour on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour;no good thing does he withhold from those whose way of life is blameless.
12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Not being able to be physically present in a building with others to worship God this Sunday may be odd, but has it not exposed to us how much we love church, how much we love worship, and perhaps even how much we love the Lord? It is no bad thing to realise these things. And perhaps as you think about this Sunday and the Sundays ahead, you are anticipating a dry and arid time spiritually, a Valley of Baka if you like. I think you are in for a surprise. As you trust in the Lord, and rest knowing that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not ours, that his ways are always good and his purpose is always wise, I believe that in the coming weeks you will find yourselves not in Baka’s Valley but in a place of springs where you will find such satisfaction in Christ. Don’t be afraid, because He is with you.
Every blessing, take care, and as I said the last time, we will speak again soon.
Source: Free Church of Scotland
A Pastoral Letter – 20th March 2020