Thought for the Week - Sunday 7th June 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(12)      7th June, - Isaiah 40:27-31 – Return, Rebuild and Renew

We focus on Isaiah 40:27-31 for our ‘Thought for the week’ for this week and we have three headings to reflect upon, and they are Return, Rebuild and Renew.

Within our Lectionary today is Trinity Sunday, but I did not feel that the subject of Trinity would be helpful for our ‘Thought for the week’ and so wanted to look elsewhere for God’s guidance and I began by looking within the ‘set’ readings.

After a great deal of prayer I felt it right to work with this passage from Isaiah 40:27-31.

Having come to that conclusion I do feel that the theme lends itself in many ways to our the parish Carlton Colville as we face Interregnum.

I am very conscious that there are many comments made within this ‘Thought for the week’ that relate to the parishes of Corton and Hopton and Gunton, but it is also relevant to Carlton Colville’

We will come to the study in a short while, but before that we will start with a prayer and follow it with our first song for today’

And so we pray together:

Holy God, faithful and unchanging: enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth.

Speak to us through Your word in this week’s ‘Thought for the week’

We pray for our fellow church members as we set aside time to look at Your word to us today.

Draw us more deeply into the fullness of your love, that we may truly worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

We can now turn to our first hymn for this week, and it is ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ – a great favourite for many.

As we sing it may it speak to us afresh and refresh us as we begin this ‘Thought for the week’

 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not,

Thy compassion's they fail not,

as Thou hast been Thou for ever wilt be.

   Great is Thy faithfulness,

   Great is Thy faithfulness,

   Morning by morning

   new mercies I see;

   All I have needed

   Thy hand has provided, -

   Great is Thy faithfulness,

   Lord, unto me!

 

Summer and winter,

and spring time and harvest,

sun, moon and stars in their courses above,

join with all nature in manifold witness

to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

   Chorus

 

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence

to cheer and to guide;

strength for today,

and bright hope for tomorrow,

blessings all mine,

with ten thousand beside!

   Chorus

As we turn to look at Isaiah 40:27-31 first of all let’s have some general comments on the book of the Prophet Isaiah and God’s message to His people through this book.

The book of Isaiah contains a number of very special themes with verses and passages that are often quoted in different settings to show God’s unfolding plan - many of them refer to God’s Messiah who would come to ‘redeem’ mankind.

If you take a look at Isaiah 53:1-6 you will read a very familiar passage and again in Isaiah 9:6-7 – a passage often used within Christmas services.

This book comes at a time in the history of the Jewish nation when they were being warned by God through the prophets that if they did not ‘turn and repent’ they would be over-run as a nation and taken into Exile in a foreign land.

They did not repent and God was as good as His word.

Over a period of a number of years the land was over-run, buildings were destroyed and most of the people were taken away into slavery in a foreign land.

Return

And so as we begin this study we begin with the first heading – that of return.

God’s people were in Exile – but God had also promised that after a set period of time their Exile would come to an end and they would be allowed to return to their own land.

In the ‘good old days’ before ‘lockdown’ it was easy to go into the shop and buy a weekly TV guide to help you work through the programs on the various channels.

Some time ago while working through our TV guide we found a program on the ‘Alaskan Rail Road’.

It was a program that showed how the railway helped to support life, the economy and Military Security in the American State of Alaska.

On one such program they showed a train setting off on its ‘marathon’ journey across a large part of Alaska that would include several tunnels, the longest of which is 2 miles in length.

As the train enters the 2 mile long tunnel the driver can be heard to say, ‘I can see light at the end of the tunnel – it’s 2 miles away – but at least you can see that there is an end to this tunnel’

For the Jews, the thought of being able to return to their own land must have seemed a bit like that tunnel in Alaska – it was going to be a very long and very hard journey ahead of them.

The question was, did they see any ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or did they only see problems and face the prospect with dread?

Someone has defined “circumstances” as “those nasty things you see when you take your eyes off God.”

 If you look at God through your circumstances, He may well seem small and very far away; but if by faith you look at your circumstances through God, He will draw very near and reveal His greatness to you.

Instead of praising the Lord, the nation were complaining to Him that He acted as though He did not know their situation or have any concern for their problems (40:27 & 49:14).

Instead of seeing the open door, the Jews saw only the long road before them; and they complained that they did not have strength for the journey – as far as they were concerned God was asking them to do the impossible.

But God knows how we feel and what we fear, and He is adequate to meet our every need.

We can never fully obey God in our own strength, but we can always trust Him to provide the strength we need (Phil. 4:13).

If we trust ourselves, we will faint and fall; but if we wait on the Lord by faith, we will receive strength for the journey.

The word “wait” does not suggest that we simply sit around and do nothing.

It means “to hope,” to look to God for all that we need (Isa. 26:3; 30:15).

This involves taking time to consider His character and His promises, and praying, and seeking to glorify Him.

We have had to face weeks of ‘lockdown’ due to the Coronavirus epidemic and as we hear thoughts being expressed about an eventual ‘return to normal’ there are many fears being expressed by different folk.

Some say they fear that they will find it hard to do something that before ‘lockdown’ we considered so simple – for example ‘going shopping’

We will have to move slowly back into a time of being able to mix in large groups of people and the thought of overseas travel and holidays have their own concerns for many of us.

If we could turn the clock back just over a year then to ‘return’ would mean to go back to a time when Carlton Colville Parish had an Incumbent.

In such circumstances to relax the ‘lockdown’ rules and return to ‘normal’ would be simply a matter of continuing doing just what we have always done.

However, in today’s world we face an entirely different situation as we think about what it will mean to ‘return’ in this time of Interregnum.

Rebuild

So, let’s turn our attention to the second of our headings for this study together – to Rebuild

As the Jewish people faced the challenge of the long journey home and the difficult task of rebuilding, they could think of many causes for fear.

But there was one big reason not to be afraid: The Lord promised that He was with them and would give them success.

God seeks to calm their fears by assuring them that He is going before them and working on their behalf.

The entire country was in a dreadful state and most of the cities were in ruins.

Was the challenge to try to use the rubble to rebuild the magnificent structures that once were there – or was it to seek to rebuild an entirely ‘new’ life and environment?

As we are called upon to rebuild when we ‘return’ from ‘lockdown’ it is not just a matter of taking the previous ‘normal; and ‘wind it up and set it off’ and allow it to run just as it always had done over the years.

From the ‘rubble’ of coronavirus and ‘lockdown’ we have to rebuild a structure – and we need to pray that it will be the structure He wants to build to His glory.

Renew

And so we turn to the third heading – that of ‘Renew’

The word “renew” means “to exchange,” as in taking off our old clothes and putting on new.

We exchange our weakness for His power (2 Cor. 12:1–10).

We exchange the ‘old system’ for the new Benefice,

As we wait before Him, God enables us to soar when there is a crisis, to run when the challenges are many, and to walk faithfully in the day-by-day demands of life.

Most of those who were about to return from Exile had never been in the land to which they were now to go – the people had been in Exile so long that most of them were actually born in Exile.

What this return was all about was to rebuild an entirely new structure and to look to allow God to renew their spiritual lives.

They were not being called to wear the old clothes of the old way of life in the land.

No, not as bit of it – their task was to exchange the memories and stories they had heard and look to see new ones being made – they were to look for total renewal.

So it is for us.

What God has in store for us is not just the ‘old way of life’ but a new and fresh approach to our worship and witness as we seek to see God’s church re-established in this place.

It will take courage, it will take determination – but like those returning from Exile – we too have the voice of God speaking into our ears saying, ‘I am with you’.

In Isaiah 30:21 we read, ‘Whether your turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way: walk in it’

We need to pray that the person appointed to this Benefice will be one who is a Bible based teacher who is open to God and looking for a new and fresh ways to move forward.

It is true that a shepherd needs to get to know his or her flock – but it is also true that he or she needs to take the initiative and lead ‘the flock’ to fresh pastures that may be strange and unfamiliar to us.

As we come towards the end of this ‘Thought for the week’ there are some practical points we want to make.

At the moment of writing this note there is no indication as to when we will be able to re-open our church buildings either for private prayer or for services of worship – but we will keep you informed as and when we have some news.

Whenever we do re-open the church buildings either for private prayer or for services of worship the way we do things and the services we plan will have to be adapted to fit the new structure of ‘Covid-19’ recovery.

As we look to move into a ‘new normal’ we will need to support and pray for our Church Wardens and PCC as they take the lead to help us move into our ‘new normal’

We also need to pray for each other in all this time of ‘Return, Rebuild and Renew’ and to seek to allow God to lead and guide us in in all – we need to learn from His word to us.

‘Thought for the week’ is not designed to ‘entertain’ us during ‘lockdown’ but to teach us from God’s word – an enable us to grow spiritually.

May we be open to His word and may we each one know His hand of blessing upon us, one and all.

And so we draw each other together before God as we turn to Him in a time of prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray for our Parish, especially at this difficult time, and for all the individuals who are the ‘church’ in this place.

During this time of ‘lockdown’ we pray that You will encourage and sustain us in our daily walk with You.

Help us as we share the ‘Thought for the week’ and in our prayerful concern for our fellow believers.

We pause for a moment to think of those church members known to us who, like ourselves, will spend time with this ‘Thought for the week’ and we lift them before the Father.

Teach us, guide us and strengthen us even through these difficult days.

We pray that You will teach us what it means in real terms for us to ‘Return, Rebuild and Renew’ in the days, weeks and months that lie ahead for us.

Help each one of us to be ready to work together to bring about a ‘new normal’ in our new joint Benefice.

Help us to encourage each other in whatever way we can. We pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen

We conclude this ‘Thought for the week’ with the hymn, ‘Lord, I come to You’

It may be new to some of us, but we can listen to it and perhaps even sing along to it and our prayer is that we are blessed by it.

 

Lord, I come to you,

let my heart be changed, renewed,

flowing from the grace that I found in you.

And, Lord, I’ve come to know

the weakness I see in me,

will be stripped away

by the power of your love

 

   Hold me close,

   let your love surround me,

   bring me near,

   draw me to your side,

   and as I wait,

   I’ll rise up like the eagle,

   and I will soar with you;

   your Spirit leads me on,

   in the power of your love

 

Lord, unveil my eyes,

let me see you face to face,

the knowledge of your love,

as you live in me.

Lord, renew my mind,

as your will unfolds in my life,

in living every day in the power of your love

   Chorus


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