March 25th

In this current crisis it is very distressing for many not to work every day – at a business, or a career. Our thoughts are with any whose general anxiety is heightened by extra worries about livelihood – their own, or employees; who can do nothing but watch as years of effort are reduced to nothing.

There’s an argument that because we are forced to stop working, we might begin to appreciate rest – the sabbath – “on the seventh day God rested” – being, rather than doing. All very well, but there’s one crucial difference. In Genesis, “on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested…”

Anyone who’s ever done a hard day’s work will know that powerful feeling of resting after, tired but satisfied. But this “rest” isn’t like that at all; it’s unfinished business; enforced rest. It’s difficult to just be when there’s so much still that can’t be done.

Ultimately this dreadful period may lead us all to re-order our priorities – that would, no doubt, be a good thing. But we shouldn’t imagine that the crisis will help us overcome our fractured human nature – we are fallen – “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life”.

On this understanding, we are destined to toil, and to live with restlessness, however much we are forced to rest. The Christian Faith continues to hope in the One who has “remodelled” human nature through His death and rising again – “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.

Michael Docker

March 23rd

Leading a service in the empty (almost) Tyndale was a strange experience. I imagine watching it was a strange experience as well, especially the singing.

But it felt right to hold the service in the church. I’ve watched one or two alternatives online, from other churches. A talking head with the laptop camera too close, every pore cruelly exposed, doesn’t to me, look like a very effective way of helping folk to worship, never mind what is said.

The difference, I think, comes down to whether the offering is an attempt at public worship or just an attempt to communicate with the church’s own. Of course, any church has to communicate with its own – to provide information, to inspire, pray, show care.

But public worship is something else. It is worship to God that anyone might join in with, be they part of a church, or not. Most churches routinely offer public worship – doors are open, a welcome is offered. But if the songs, prayers, words of greeting, sermon, all assume everyone is part of the church’s own world, then none of what’s offered will be ‘welcoming’ at all.

The same thing applies – perhaps even more so – online. One aspect of the current crisis is the closing down of everything. Gradually the public domain fades away and the private, domain comes to the fore. Worship offered by churches online might be one of the few ways of opening up – not just to each other in the church, but to the wider world – it is God’s world, after all; that He loves so much he has given his only Son.

Michael Docker