Message from Rev. Ralph Thornley

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3: 5-6

As we travel on through this year of 2020 someone has suggested that it needs to be deleted and reinstalled because it has a virus. As we stood at the beginning of this year who could have seen or known what was waiting for us in the days ahead, for the moment we know but there are still many months to go before this year ends. The people of 1912/1913 could not see the great war that was about to descend on them nor the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic which lasted from January 1918 to December 1920 and infected 500 million people – about a quarter of the world’s population at the time. It is estimated that between 17 million and 50 million succumbed to the virus – they did not have the medicines we have today.

 As each year comes around we have no idea what it holds in store for us. It was the great Methodist preacher Rev Dr. William Sangster who died of muscular atrophy on Wesley Day 24th May1960 who wrote:

I cannot promise you, in the coming year, a new set of circumstances. Indeed I anticipate for myself and for you, difficulties and disappointments and obstacles and some pain – for that is life. No year has dawned that did not contain them and if such a year did come it might be debilitating to the soul. But in the Name of Him Who sits upon the Throne, I promise you that if you will receive Him into your heart and if you will submit to His Lordship over you, you can have a new heart,  a new life and therefore a new birth. I cannot beckon you away from the flinty path upon which some of you walk. I am not commissioned to do so. Those who follow Christ must travel a times by stony and rugged ways but I do promise in grey times a new life in God.

I believe these are relevant words for our time. Although we have been taken by absolute surprise and we do not yet have a vaccine to combat the Corona Virus yet we are not without hope. It is true we do not know when this is all going to end or what the future will look like – but God does. We must not lose hope. I came across this little story some time ago. Not long after the end of World War II, in Cologne, Germany, American soldiers were looking for orphaned children and German snipers. In a dark and damp cellar, where thousands of Jews once hid from Nazi torment – they discovered an inscription scrawled across a stone wall by an anonymous author who was likely killed. The words serve as a prayer against the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust. 

  • “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when not feeling it. I believe in God even when He is silent.” 

 Today faith is needed more than ever as we encounter this virus despite the fact that God seems to be silent – or is He? We are in fact caught up in a world war. One can have the most sophisticated manmade weaponry capable of tearing the world apart but along comes a little virus not made with human hands and sets the world in turmoil. Let us continue to find hope in the risen Christ at this time as the world battles on with the COVID 19 crises. The Spirit of God that brought forth the world from chaos and darkness has not vanished from our universe but by God’s mercy He may yet bring forth a fairer world  from the new darkness that has beset us.

  • “The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” – Francis de Sales.

Hugh Robert McDonald in his book “On Top of the World” tells the story of Martin Luther’s first printing of his translation of the bible. The floor of the shop was littered with scraps of paper from proof sheets. Luther tells how the printer’s little daughter, while playing among the presses, picked up one of these scraps – on it she read these nine words of Scripture: “For God so loved the world that He gave …..” As the girl thought about these words she felt happy and the more she thought about them the happier she became. In the days that followed her mother noticed the change in her and asked the source of her new found contentment. Putting her hand into her apron pocket the girl produced the piece of crumpled paper. Her mother read it and asked, “But what does it mean? For God so loved the world that He gave… but what was it He gave?” The girl replied.” I don’t know what He gave, but if He loved us well enough to give us anything then we need not be afraid anymore.” The little girl was right. To know that one lives within the realm of God’s eternal love is never again to be afraid. It is to be persuaded that neither death, nor life …. nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is no less so as we go through these difficult days with the Corolla Virus. Why God has allowed it to descend upon the world we have no idea but somewhere in this experience there must be a purpose. Lockdown can be a difficult time in so many different ways. Perhaps it is a good time to reflect again on Psalm 46:10 which reads: “Be still and know that I am God.” 

This is a popular verse for comforting ourselves and others especially in time of trouble and war. At this time we are in a world war but not with man-made weaponry. More than ever we need to place our trust with the firm belief that this crisis will end in God’s good time. In unsettling times, such as this pandemic, we can find our peace in the presence of the Lord. He is the only one who can effectively prevent the contagious epidemic of fear. He is not oblivious to the things that are happening about us although He may not respond in ways that we would like Him to respond. Despite everything I am reminded of that lovely chorus by …

“God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
Though trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
God is still on the throne,
He never forsaketh His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne.” – Mrs. Frederick W. Suffield