COVID-19 Period Updates     


Due to the COVID-19 crisis we have had to cancel ALL our Sunday services, Coffee shop, Natter, Renew Wellbeing, small groups, prayer meetings, and youth groups. Whilst the building is closed your Ministry Team, Deacons and Staff continue to work hard from their homes to bring Hope in the heart of the community. The Church answerphone is being monitored for messages. Tel: 0115 8400 225 

Sunday services and the Ministers messages will now be published via YouTube and Facebook, please Subscribe and Like for frequent updates.  We also urge Hucknall residents to join the Hucknall Community Care - Coronavirus Facebook page to access support during isolation and to join the support team.  

Further reading can be found in a book called 'War Against Worry' written by our Minister ~Rev Simon J Robinson  

We encourage church members NOT to meet up over this time period, but stay in touch via phone, texts, skype, zoom, facebook and other social media platforms.

It’s Sunday but Friday’s coming 

Every Easter countless Ministers quote it in their sermons, bloggers paste it into their seasonal offering and Social Media users display it as a meme: ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!’ The catchphrase was made famous by Tony Campolo but it originates from a sermon preached by Pastor Shadrach Meschach Lockridge who was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California from 1953-1993.

This Easter it seemed as if the reverse was true - it may have been Sunday, but the darkness of Friday was back with a vengeance. This time it wasn’t the angry mob baying for blood or the Romans inflicting their cruel death on Jesus. It was an invisible enemy relentlessly claiming victims around the world. Day after day I had observed the statistics climb but on Easter Sunday it hit very near to home with the death of a dear Christian man, from our sister church, who was close to many of us. To be honest I was relieved that I did not have to stand in front of a congregation and triumphantly declare, ‘Christ is risen!’ It was much easier to hide behind a YouTube broadcast and try to muster a semblance of excitement. Where is the joy of the resurrection in this season of death, fear and isolation?

When I was a young Christian I used the ‘Topical Memory system’ to memorise key Bible verses. One of them, in Philippians, says ‘I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’ (Phil 3:10). After committing the verse to memory I gave it some thought. I loved the part about ‘the power of his resurrection’ but I skimmed over the ‘fellowship of his sufferings’ and ignored the bit about ‘being like him in death’. Perhaps that is why I have struggled to relate the Easter message that Christ has conquered death with the stark reality of the COVID-19 body count. Paul’s logic, in this verse, is that resurrection power leads us to suffering and death after which we will experience the resurrection of the dead.

This Easter the world has endured suffering and grief which seems to have wrong-footed the message of Easter Sunday. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we have succumbed to the way our culture evades the subject of death. We say someone has, ‘passed away’, not died and our Crematoriums seem designed to do their utmost to minimize the impact of it. There are TV preachers who propagate a message of health, wealth and prosperity. One of them even wrote a book entitled ‘Your best life now’ – what does that say about their view of the life to come?

The circumstances surrounding this Easter have made me think hard about the way in which the New Testament holds the tension between the reality of death and the hope of the resurrection.  Death is defeated but it will not be completely vanquished until Christ’s return. It may have lost its sting but it still packs a punch!

After reflecting on this I recorded Easter Monday’s episode of the daily devotion that I had been sending to our members. I told them that I had found this a very difficult Easter and was heavy-hearted about our mutual friend’s death. However, the message of the Resurrection was still a source of comfort to us all. Paul was brutally honest with the Christians in Corinth, recalling an experience in which he, and his co-workers, were, ‘so utterly, unbearably crushed that [they] despaired of life itself. Indeed, [they] felt that [they] had received the sentence of death.’ Which sounds pretty grim! However, he went on to say that this was so that they would ‘rely not on [themselves] but on God who raises the dead’ (1 Corinthians 1:8-9, NRSV).

Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of our victory over death, it is described as ‘the firstfruits’ (1 Cor 15:22) and it will set in motion a chain of events that will culminate in his return and the final resurrection:
 ‘When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor 15:53-54).

This Easter has been the most difficult and painful I have known in over 30 years of ministry. However, the message of the crucifixion, resurrection and return of Jesus is more relevant than ever.
William Brodrick put it so beautifully when he wrote:
 
‘We have to be candles,
burning between
hope and despair,
faith and doubt,
life and death,
all the opposites.
That is the disquieting place where people must always find us’
(Source Northumbria Community)
 
Perhaps it is not so unusual for the spectre of death to hang over the joyful message we proclaim on Easter Sunday.

Simon J. Robinson 
 
 

Simon J. Robinson, 15/04/2020

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Songs from a Strange Land 

As for a lot of people ‘Zoom’ seems to be an integral part of my life during this lockdown period. At a recent ‘virtual’ meeting with City Church Leaders we had an open discussion about the joys and trials of caring for our respective churches during this season. One of the people, peeping out of a little square on my laptop said, ‘It feels a bit like building a plane in the middle of the air’, which summed it up brilliantly!  I have lost count of the amount of times people in the media and in everyday conversations have said that we are living in unprecedented times. The world has come to a standstill, we face a deadly unseen enemy and we have no idea how long this will go on for and what the world, our nation and the church will look like when we emerge from it.

Naturally, my primary concern is the church and in particular the one God has given me care of. I have heard some voices of doom and gloom suggesting that this will spell disaster but I can’t see how that squares with the words of Jesus: ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not conquer it’ (Matt 16:16 NLT).

Neither do I believe that COVID-19 has been sent by God to judge nations for same-sex marriage and abortion (a view that has been touted by some). My understanding of the Bible informs me that this dreadful pandemic is the result of a world that is affected by the consequence of sin (see Gen 3:17-18) and is presently, ‘groaning as in the pains of childbirth’ as it ‘looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay’ (Rom 8:22, 21 NLT). As Christians we live with the tension of the pain and trauma of the terrible suffering and upheaval that has come in the wake of this pandemic and the hope of the new creation to come. So it is vital that, rather than thunder a message of judgement and doom, we sound one of hope and love.

Although this is a season unlike any other, in recent times, there are parallels that we can draw from the Bible.
 
In the Old Testament God’s people were scattered when they were sent into exile for 70 years. There was no Temple to worship in and make offerings as the Psalmist, who was in exile, lamented:
 
‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:1–4)
 
However, those seven decades were not wasted. Quite the reverse – it was a season when the Jewish people renewed their relationship with God and shed their idols. They emerged as a very different nation to the one that had been forcibly evicted from the Promised Land.

The New Testament picks up the theme of exile, using the word ‘diaspora’ meaning scattering, which is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to describe the exile. Peter addresses his readers as ‘God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia’ (1 Pet 1:1 NIV). And James says that his letter is written to, ‘The twelve tribes scattered among the nations’ (James 1:1 NIV). My view is that James is using the image of the twelve tribes to refer to the whole people of God (who probably would have been Jewish believers at that time). The important point is that he saw them as being scattered, like their exilic ancestors. 

So how does this impact the way that I shepherd the church God has placed in my care?

First, it helps me to understand how bereft people feel. They are no longer able to gather to worship and spend time with one another. We are ‘singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land’. Of course we do not need the Temple to worship the Lord because we all have access to God through Christ, wherever we are. However, the very word ‘church’ describes people gathered together by God to worship and serve him as a community, which we cannot do in isolation. We have done what we can using modern technology but it is not the same. We are in exile.

Secondly, it gives me hope that this this will be a time of spiritual formation. In the last few weeks I have strengthened my own rhythm of prayer, spending my usual time with God in the morning, pausing for prayer at midday and closing the day with the Examen. One of the most important pastoral tasks I have during this time is to help our people instil this into their lives and encourage them to maintain it when we emerge.

Thirdly, it makes me realise that the Church I shepherd may be very different from what it was when we last gathered together. I do not know what kind of change this will be nor the extent of it but I am preparing for it.

Fourthly, it challenges me to listen closely to God. I must hear what the ‘Chief Shepherd’ is saying and share this with the flock to prepare them for the future God has for us.

Sooner or later the world will emerge from the darkness that COVID-19 has inflicted on it, blinking in the sunlight of the new day. It will take time for the church to adjust to being in a very different environment to the one we have been quarantined from. However, in the words of Peter (who describes us exiles):

‘[We] are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’ [1 Peter 2:9]

I am thankful that we can know and share God’s light in this present darkness and excited about what he has in store for us on the other side of the pandemic.
 
 
 

Simon J. Robinson, 09/04/2020

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COVID is not King!         


By Simon J. Robinson

In more than thirty years of being a Pastor I have never exercised ministry in such a challenging time as the one we are now in. COVID-19 has been able to do something that no political or military power has ever been able to do since the Roman Empire: it has conquered the world. It is able to strike at the old and young, rich and poor, powerful and powerless; even our Prime Minister cannot be protected against it. It has brought a third of the world into lockdown and dominated all of humankind with fear. To me, these events have an apocalyptic feel and some mornings I wake up wondering if I am part of a dystopian movie.

Where is God in all of this and what is he calling his people to do? When the great persecution came to the early church the believers who were scattered ‘preached the Word wherever they went’ (Acts 8:4). And when the Khmer Rouge emptied Phnom Penh and drove thousands of innocent people to their deaths Christians were spreading the good news and leading people to Jesus. COVID-19 has effectively scattered the church but, unlike the early Christians and those Cambodian Christians, we cannot go out and preach the good news wherever we go because we are confined to our homes.

Early on Saturday morning I sat in my lounge, Bible in hand, attempting to get some perspective on what was going on. I had been reading through Luke’s Gospel and my passage for that day was about Jesus’ arrest in chapter 22. When the Religious Leaders turned up with a motley crew of people armed with swords and clubs, as if they were arresting a violent criminal, Jesus asked them why they needed to act this way concluding, ‘This is your hour-when darkness reigns’ (Luke 23:53). We are living in one of the most difficult times I have ever known and there are moments when it seems, to me, that the darkness that has come in the wake of COVID-19 reigns. However, Jesus’ words reminded me that God works out his purposes in such times, through the way of the cross which leads us to the victory of the final resurrection.

I was not given all the answers to my questions but I did have a renewed conviction of the need to cling to the cross and be like Jesus in the suffering that this terrible virus is unleashing on us all (see Phil 3:10).

Later on in Luke 23, when Jesus was challenged by the High Priest as to whether he was the Messiah he said:
“If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” (Luke 22:67-69).

As I prepared to live another day in lockdown all I could see was darkness, but in the midst of it I found the cross and I continue to cling to it! Jesus embraced his suffering knowing that it would lead to the victory of his resurrection, ascension and return. Suddenly, filled with a new sense of joy, I was able to declare that Jesus – not COVID-19 – is King. He will take his church through these sufferings and ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against us’ (Matt 16:17-19).

Strengthened by this realisation I went into the day determined to find creative ways encourage the people God has entrusted me, to embrace the cross and to live in the sure and certain hope given through Jesus’ resurrection. I am sure that God will carve out a way for us to be his people in ‘diaspora’ and spread the good news (Matt 16:17-19). Already, I see this happening with Christians sharing the gospel by sensitively praying for people when they are distressed, giving ‘a reason for the hope that is within them’ and by doing acts of kindness in Jesus’ name. Traumatic as this season is, I believe that we will look back on it as a time when God deepened our roots and prepared us to go out and reap a great harvest. Jesus is King!
 
 

Simon J. Robinson, 31/03/2020

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COVID-19 Period Updates     


Due to the COVID-19 crisis we have had to cancel ALL our Sunday services, Coffee shop, Natter, Renew Wellbeing, small groups, prayer meetings, and youth groups. Whilst the building is closed your Ministry Team, Deacons and Staff continue to work hard from their homes to bring Hope in the heart of the community. The Church answerphone is being monitored for messages. Tel: 0115 8400 225 

Sunday services and the Ministers messages will now be published via YouTube and Facebook, please Subscribe and Like for frequent updates.  We also urge Hucknall residents to join the Hucknall Community Care - Coronavirus Facebook page to access support during isolation and to join the support team.  

Further reading can be found in a book called 'War Against Worry' written by our Minister ~Rev Simon J Robinson  

We encourage church members NOT to meet up over this time period, but stay in touch via phone, texts, skype, zoom, facebook and other social media platforms.

Helen Branson, 30/03/2020

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Helen Branson, 30/03/2020