Loving Our Neighbours During COVID-19

Loving Our Neighbours During COVID-19

Written by Heidi Wood

 

With our church building closed, our usual activities suspended and almost all social gatherings banned it might feel like all our chances to share Jesus with those around us have vanished overnight. The sad reality is that many of our relationships outside our immediate families will be reduced to phone calls, video chats and quick snippets of conversation over the fence or from across balconies. I would like to encourage you that even though the way we relate to our neighbours and non-Christian friends may have changed, we can still share the good news of Jesus with them – we just need to be a little more creative! 

 

For many of our non-Christian friends and contacts their world is changing and so much is beyond their control; we have a huge opportunity to be speaking words of peace into the uncertainty and modelling hope in a time of suffering. Our world needs to hear the good news of Jesus more than ever, which Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16 “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

 

If you’re wondering where to start, one easy way is to let your neighbours know you’re there to help. Send them a message, give them a call or slip a note under their door. Make sure they have your phone number and you have theirs. Let them know you’re there for practical help, as well as conversation and company as needed. Do their shopping for them, check in every day, offer to tend their garden or put our their bins. Love them and if they ask why – tell them about Jesus and how much he did for those he loves!

 

Wollongong Baptist Church has created a resource for this purpose. You can print it out and fill in to slip under a neighbour’s door. Click on the following link to download: Love Your Neighbour

 

Or you could hand write a note; give examples of what you can help with, how they can contact you and that you’re here to support them.

 

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

3 Reasons Why I Am Observing Lent This Year

3 Reasons Why I am Observing Lent This Year

Written by Grace Jones

 

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and spans for forty days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Whilst some traditions may have become too legalistic in their observance of Lent, at its heart, Lent is about anticipating the cross.

 

It’s about remembering that before we can celebrate Christ’s victory over the grave, we must first consider the temptations and suffering he took on for us in his life and death.

 

Often people observing Lent enter a time of self denial and sacrifice by giving up something or fasting, just as Jesus did in the wilderness. Sometimes people use the season as a time to focus on a particular aspect of their spiritual life through focussed bible reading and prayer.
Lent is not something that is spoken about in the Bible and it is not something that is mandated by our church. But this year, for the first time in my adult life, I have decided to observe Lent, and there are three main reasons for this.

 

1) I want to organise my time around the Christian calendar

We organise our lives in many ways. Weeks, months, seasons, even appointments within a single hour! When I pause for a moment and think about how any given year of mine has been organised, it has been largely dictated by societal norms and my own busyness and values. In my life as a student and a teacher, my year was structured around school terms, which were largely determined by the government’s decisions about when children should take a break. My own diary is filled with self determined appointments concerning what I do, where I should be, when I should do things and the people I should do them with. I’ve found my bearings throughout the year based on which family member has a birthday coming up and what holiday (or perhaps just commercial opportunity) is being marketed at the shops. But this year, I want to think about my time differently. I want to surrender my time, how I use my time and how I even think about the concept of time itself, to God, who is timeless. Instead of going through the motions as I blindly have in previous years, this year I want to start organising the rhythms and routines of my life around something with more meaning and substance. By choosing to observe Lent, I am trying to mindfully participate in the Christian calendar, a system of seasons that bases itself on the story of the gospel.*

 

2) I want to create triggers throughout my day that prompt my heart back to Jesus

As I observe Lent this year, I will be giving up chocolate. That’s not particularly impressive (or even unique!) and I know it’s a very small sacrifice in the scheme of things. However, for me, eating some chocolate is a daily ritual. It’s something I look forward to each day. At times, it’s been something I’ve planned the rest of my food around so that I can enjoy it ‘guilt-free’. It’s a little luxury that I enjoy, sometimes even crave. I’m not proud of this, but at times, it’s even been a source of comfort. On a daily basis, my tastebuds expect chocolate. They anticipate chocolate. They crave after and long for chocolate. The day feels incomplete without chocolate. How ridiculous that I have trained my body to pine for chocolate like this! It got me thinking though: do I pine for Jesus like this? Do I crave time in God’s word like this? Could I join with the psalmist and honestly claim that in the day to day realities of living my life, I, like the deer, pant for God? Do I truly thirst for Him? My aim as I observe Lent this year is that each time I think of chocolate, each time my body craves its sweetness, I would be prompted to redirect my thoughts to Jesus and revel in the sweetness of my Saviour.

 

3) I don’t want Easter to creep up on me by surprise

Our grocery stores certainly prepare for each season well in advance. You’d think that the surplus of bunnies and eggs would be enough to stop Easter from suddenly creeping up on me each year. But when I see hot cross buns available in late January, I roll my eyes and don’t give a moment’s thought to Easter. The weeks roll by and before I know it, New Year’s Day has given way to Easter weekend, which is a delightful blur of food and family and Christian activity, but the time seems more empty than it ought to be. I feel that this is because I’ve been entering the Easter season without a whole lot of thoughtfulness and reflection. As I observe Lent this year, and more intentionally meditate on the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus, I’m prayerfully hoping that I will enter the Easter weekend this year with a deeper conviction of my own need for a Saviour and a more profound wonderment at what Jesus has done for me.

 

So what about you? Can I encourage you in joining me in Lent?
Will you choose to enter the Easter season mindfully this year?

 

*The Christian Calendar consists of five segments that represent different moments in the story of the gospel. ‘Advent’ focusses on the anticipation and arrival of Jesus into the world; ‘Epiphany’ focusses on the manifestation of Christ: the revealing of Himself as God and the unfolding of His plan as Saviour; ‘Lent’ focusses on the temptation and death of Jesus, ‘Easter’ focusses on the resurrection of Jesus and ‘Pentecost’ focusses on the sending of the Holy Spirit and the work to be done between now and when Jesus returns.

 

Cute Rabbits vs Brutal Crucifixion – Why Easter is important

Why Easter is important

For many people Easter is a time of the year when you enjoy days off work, gather with the family and eat chocolate for breakfast. For many people Easter is fun but unimportant. And yet truth be told because of the resurrection of Jesus, Easter is incredibly important. Let me give you three reasons as to why Easter is important:

1. Jesus’ suffering – he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows

In the bible the Easter story begins with Jesus’ betrayal, trial and torture. In this time his emotional and physical suffering is unimaginable. Jesus was brutally flogged, mocked, beaten and spat on. While this suffering is shocking, it wasn’t a surprise for Jesus, he predicted that this would happen to him (Mark 10:33-34). Interestingly, Jesus wasn’t the only person who predicted this suffering. Five hundred years before Jesus’ time the prophet Isaiah talked about a ‘man of suffering’ who would be despised, rejected and familiar with pain like Jesus was.

Now why did Jesus have to suffer? Jesus’ suffering was part of his Messiahship and demonstrated his humanity. Like you and I suffer, Jesus suffered. But Jesus suffered voluntarily, on our behalf, to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. In other words, Jesus suffered for our sake and our sin. He was inflicted, so that we could be healed. Jesus went through hell, so that by faith in him, we can go to heaven.

2. Jesus’ death – he paid for our sin so we don’t have to 

Following Jesus’ trial and torture, he is nailed to the cross and dies (Luke 23:44-49). It was a horrific death; crucifixion was considered the most painful and ultimate punishment in the Roman empire and was a shameful way to die. But once again this didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus, several times he predicted his death, for example in Luke 9:22 he said, “he will be rejected by the chief priests and scribes and killed”.

So why did Jesus have to die? Well, Romans 3:23 tells us all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. While Romans 6:23 tells us that the punishment for sin is death – death that separates us from God. But the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross, is that Jesus dies in our place, so we can be reconciled to God. In other words Jesus takes on the ultimate punishment we deserved – eternal death and eternal separation from God.

3. Jesus’ resurrection – he gave us new life

The climax of the Easter story is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). When Jesus’ friends visit his tomb they find the stone rolled away and an angel tells them ‘He is not here, for he has risen’. The resurrection is considered so important that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then our faith is futile.

So why did Jesus have to rise? The reason why Jesus’ resurrection is so vital, is that it shows God’s power over death, and gives us hope that we also can be raised from the dead (Romans 8:11). The resurrection is the foundation for hope. The suffering and death of Jesus is critical, but the resurrection is the climax of the Easter story. It allows followers of Jesus to confidently declare ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about Easter than please join us for Easter! We have services on Good Friday (April 15) at 9am or on Easter Sunday (April 17) at 8:30am, 10:30am or 6pm. We are a church of multiple cultures and multiple ages, so everyone is welcome!