Newsletter 11 July 202, Episode 54

Refreshment and renewal

Last weekend some of the lockdown restrictions were relaxed. It meant that I could go and visit my parents for the first time since March. It was a wonderful time although tinged with awkwardness. It was delightful to see them, but painful not to be able to hug them. At least my father I could shake hands – swiftly followed by a good hand washing! I will confess that I did give my mother a kiss by accident. I did it before I realised what I was doing. Then she told me off!

The picture at the top of this newsletter is one I took on this visit. It tells a story of renewal. When we moved into the family home 45 years ago the Oak tree depicted was not much larger than you see in the picture. It grew rapidly to become an enormous beautiful copper-coloured oak. When the sun rose it shimmered with colours gold and orange. In a storm last year a huge branch came crashing down into the orchard. The council determined that the rest of the tree was unstable. Workmen came to take it down to a stump. Only a few months later you can see the renewal. The way God has made the world in which we live includes, always, the potential for refreshment, renewal and growth.

I’m bearing this in mind as I go away for a personal spiritual retreat. The retreat runs from Sunday after church to Tuesday evening. now and again over the years I have gone away for an overnight retreat. The first time I did this was 2003. The church was in crisis and, frankly, so was I. the three days I spent in Wales and the surrounding areas were the perfect preparation for the years that followed. Without that time with God, focused and prayer-soaked I doubt I could have made it through the tough times that came.

A mix of circumstances including COVID-19 have persuaded me that now is the right time to go away with God. Please pray for me that I come back with a more powerful sense of God’s love and presence, and, if it’s his will, greater clarity about how I am to be, and what we are to do as a church post-COVID.

Hitting a nerve

As mentioned last week, I had the privilege of speaking on Acts 11.19-26 to the East region of the London International Church of Christ, the Thames Valley churches of Christ and the congregation in Uppsala, Sweden. I will bring the same message to the Watford church this weekend. It struck a nerve in all three places last Sunday. I haven’t had a reaction to a sermon like that for a long time.

I don’t know exactly what it was, but clearly the Spirit helped me to tap into the zeitgeist. If you get a chance to listen to it, I’d be grateful if you could help me to understand what it is that connected.

Until the next time, I hope and pray that you would be refreshed and renewed and find that God’s word hits your nerve where it is needed!

God bless, Malcolm