"It is all about something that's happened here on earth, strong enough to break the actual hold of the law on us, strong enough that the earth itself is turned into a place of light, life and joy, to hear in the rustling leaves the sound of the gospel...It is a voice strong enough to make us and then keep us human, to enable us to live as we were intended to live, as free creatures of God". Gerhard Forde - Where God meets Man.
"Unfortunately, we usually look upon the love of God as the love of a Father for small child, but that is not throughly scriptural. The grandest, the complete, imagery employed is precisely that of a lover and the beloved - bride and bridegroom. It is the marriage of the church to Christ that is the grand finale of the long love affair between God and creation". Robert Farrar Capon - Hunting the Divine Fox.
The summer of 2005 wasn't an easy time for me. As my entire adult world crumbled and emptied in the loss of my wife to cancer, I found myself suspended between two inexplicably divided realities. On the one side was a sense of comfort in respect to my wife's safety in that death, and a palpable sense of comfort amidst the pain, but this was accompanied by a very real perception that my life that had been as a married man for 25 years was over - where was I to go, what was I to do now?
I raise this because I know that the vast majority of believers find themselves in a very similar dilemma at this time, especially those in ministry. They have sought to do their best in these incredibly trying circumstances to maintain something, often anything, that holds a semblance of continuing fellowship and ministry amidst these troubles, and it is so important we value that giving and sacrifice, even if we are troubled and critical of the manner in which this has (or hasn't) been delivered, so pray earnestly for those in such service.
Some 25 years before losing my wife, my first few years of marriage proved, until her death, to be one of the hardest moments of my life, because I had to learn, and learn fast, to grow up, and take hold of my responsibilities as a married man. It wasn't easy, and I certainly made a couple of major mistakes on the way, but the love at the core of our life held us as I grew to a point where I became someone who fulfilled the role marriage required of me.
We as church are in that place right now. There is what seems to be an overwhelming task ahead of us - to become the indisputable focal point in this crisis of the treasures of grace and unspeakable joy amidst this awful moment, and to do so with the manner of boldness evidenced amongst God's beloved so many times in prior centuries, so I'd suggest we need to give ourselves over to the ways and means to do so.
Some ten days after my wife's burial, I took myself away for a break to a coastal location amidst the beauty of Cornwall - somewhere where my wife and I had spent many years on holiday together. I spent the first day sitting on a beach just mourning, crying incessantly and allowing the raw wound inside me to be granted full expression. Over the next few days, I looked at what was now real in my life, and began to look at possible future steps from there in respects to both the whole and some of the details. That 'coming away' allowed me to begin another life, and some fifteen years later, I can see the numerous benefits that brought about in respect to location, vocation and ministry, work, friendships and most important of all, fellowship with God's people.
I'd simply suggest the place we need to begin to focus our attention upon right now is worship, and that may well have to begin with a measure of lament.
When The Lord of Hosts delivered the children of Israel from the violence of Egypt and the malevolence of Pharaoh, the immediate response of the people was praise. Moses Sang (Exodus 15) and so did Miriam, and bitter waters were made sweet to refresh them and bread from heaven fell to feed them. When Mary heard from Gabriel that she had been chosen to bear the Lord Himself, she offered her song to God in thanksgiving (Luke 1:46-55).
There are though, other times when worship is marked by a deep sense of repentance and sorrow, not only for personal or corporate sin, but because the days have become marked with some blight or trouble - sometimes the reasons for such are clear, and sometimes they are hidden.
We are a people marked by such genuine offerings to God, and if this is muted or silenced, if this is left without full and true expression, then a vital part of our reasonable service is killed, and we are thereby disconnected from a key aspect of what we are about.
Heaven is a realm filled with such worship, and God not only inhabits, but desires such praise, coming down and amongst us in such moments, so all of life no doubt will one day be a rich and deep and continual expression of such beauty, as the whole world will be filled with His glory.
In the difficult days ahead, let us seek to come aside and press in to His greatness by our turning our hearts and minds and voices towards the eternal throne and truly rejoice in the one who sits upon it and reigns forever!