Sunday Reflection - 1 Peter 4:7-11
Good morning Father, Good morning Son, Good morning Holy Spirit.
Open my lips to bless you, and my mouth shall declare your praise. Blessed are you, gracious God, I will give you glory and praise forever.
Consider the last 24 hours,
Take time to be thankful for the things you have done, the people you have encountered, the food you have eaten, and every sign of God’s provision and blessing on your life (Colossians 4.2)
Confess your sins to God and know that God ‘is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1.9)
Give to Jesus the burdens you are carrying and the things that are on your mind (Matthew 11.28). Pray for those in need, those who are suffering because of covid-19, and those who are on the frontline seeking to help and heal.
Read1 Peter 4.7-11
Back in January and February I was writing up the notes for our sermon series on 1 Peter and as I considered 1 Peter chapter 4 I wrote this:
‘Imagine persecution has come in a big way to the UK and Christians are no longer allowed to worship openly. In fact the government has seized our church building and locked it up so we no longer have access.’
In the context of 1 Peter chapter 4, I wanted us to imagine the fate of persecuted Christians around the world who experience this week in and week out. There are Christians in places like China and Iran who are prevented from meeting together in public places and have to find other ways to connect with each other. But who would have thought, that just a month or so later our church building would in fact be closed on the orders of our government here in the UK! The coronavirus has prevented us from meeting together - and no one can argue with a virus.
But here’s the thing: we often say that the church is not the building - the church is the people. Here was our opportunity to test that out, and to our credit, even without our building, church has carried on as before. Yes, we miss out on meeting together, but we can pray and read the Bible at home, we can talk to each other over the phone or through the internet and we can continue to help each other out in practical ways. Church life carries on, just as it does in countries where Christians are being persecuted. We adapt, we do things differently, but the flame is not extinguished, the light does not go out.
Our church building is a very useful place for us to meet, a place to call our spiritual home. But it is our love for Christ and for one another which binds us together.
John Fawcett, a Baptist Minister from the 18th century, had been at Wainsgate Chapel, in West Yorkshire, for seven years. It was a small church where he received only a meagre salary. He had been called to serve at a larger church in London, and when the time came to leave, the congregation gathered to say farewell. The story goes that Mrs Fawcett looked around at the sad faces of the people, and cried, ‘John, I cannot bear to leave, I know not how to go’. To which her husband replied, ‘Nor can I either.’ And so they decided to stay!
Fawcett later wrote a hymn, of which the first verse goes,
‘Blessed be the tie that binds,
Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.’
In 1 Peter 4.8 we read,
‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’
‘Above all’ says Peter, above everything, be committed to loving one another in a way that only Christians can. We are a forgiven people, but not a perfect people. Our sins are cleansed through the blood of Christ, but our imperfections will continue to be a burden to others. Without love, love that goes the extra mile, we will frustrate and exasperate one another. So we need the kind of love for one another which covers our sins.
Of course, Peter may well have remembered Jesus’ emphasis on love when he said,
‘...everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13.35
And the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, wrote this:
‘And now, these three remain, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’
Our faith in Christ, and hope for the future, will have sustained us during this coronavirus crisis. We know our lives are in God’s hands. But when it is over, we will come back together again, with joy in our hearts because we love God and we love each other. We may feel, at times, when we rub each other up the wrong way, that we can’t live with each other in the church. But one thing we will have learned during this time of forced separation, is that we can’t live without each other either!
Reflections and Prayer
What have I missed from not being able to meet together in our church building? Are there aspects of our meeting together that I will appreciate more when this time has passed?
What new things have you learned during this time that it would be good to carry on afterwards?
Lord Jesus, my Saviour and Friend. Thank you that in your love for your disciples, and your love for the people you met in the streets, you changed lives. Thank you for the way your love has changed my life too. Help me to love you, and trust you, without reservation. Help me to love my neighbour without conditions. Let my life display the wonders of your love. In Jesus name, Amen.