Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends.

For those of you who attended Sunday School or a church school or who even had Bible stories read to them as a child, you may remember the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. It was a popular children’s Bible story and for those who attend church it still is. Daniel was a Jewish man who lived (about 600 BC) in Babylon where his people had been exiled into captivity. As so often happened then captivity didn’t mean incarceration, rather, a way of maintaining an empire, whole people groups were moved from one country to another. Very often they would have to take on the local religion. However, in this case it appears as if Daniel and his fellow countrymen were allowed to continue their worship of God.
Daniel, in particular, embraced his new life in a way that suggests his acceptance of the fact that, though he would have
preferred to live in his own country, he was where God wanted him to be. As a result of his honesty and meticulous attention to serving the king well, he was noticed and promoted to one of the highest positions in the country. This displeased some of the native Babylonian administrators and they tricked King Darius into making a law that stated, “For 30 days everyone should only worship the king”. Daniel would not have been able to follow this new edict without compromising his faith in God. He chose to continue his practice of worshipping God three times a day. As a result, and much to the king’s sadness, for he loved Daniel, he was thrown into the lion’s den. As the story goes, he survived because God shut tight the lion’s mouths.
Clearly Daniel is seen as a man of courage, unwilling to compromise when it comes to putting God first. But it is really important to also see that he trusted that he was exactly where God wanted him to be. He
was confident that he would be safe in God whether he lived or died. In Psalm 31, composed by David (of David and Goliath fame) he writes “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God’. My times are in your hands (...) save me in your unfailing love.” Daniel, as with David, trusted that “Save me”, didn’t refer only to this physical world but to his
continuing safety in God into eternity. As the latest health crisis with Covid-19 begins to unfold, I am aware that there are many different reactions. Some are just shrugging the news off and others are panicking. I suppose it very much
depends where you live in the world as to the level of panic. Clearly there are significant steps that we can take to protect ourselves and more importantly others. However, the notion that we can somehow control what happens next seems a little naive. As I consider my own response I find myself reflecting on Daniel. There are definitely things
I can do and should do to mitigate against either contracting or passing on the virus but ultimately, having washed my hands and applied my sanitiser, I find myself having to say, “I trust in you, Lord; my times are in your hands”. I take a great deal of comfort from that and pray that you can too.

God bless you all
Stephen

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