Welcome to the Romans 15:8 leaders blog for April. This has been a very different, challenging and testing month as the ‘lockdown’ enters its sixth week and while there are some ‘glimmers of hope’ there is no obvious ‘end in sight’, and so many people are bereaved and are struggling.
For all of us this ‘lockdown’ brings a mixture of sadness, frustration and fear; yet there is also opportunity and blessing. For example, I was very sad not to meet for Easter Sunday public worship to proclaim the Risen LORD! I think this was the first time in over 40 years I had not shared in public worship on this day; and for the past 23 years a small part of the congregation I am part of, with other local Christians would walk up a nearby hill (not easy to locate in Cambridgeshire!) at sunrise (or as near to it as possible!) to pray and praise. However, the ‘online’ Easter service shared by my home congregation was full of hope and joy - and many new participants joined the virtual congregation.
In these times hopefully social media resources can be more significant as other resources and contacts are not available or at best severely restricted. I hope this blog and the wider CMJ websites (both here in the UK and via our colleagues in Israel) are of interest and will provide some helpful resources and wider links. In terms of this blog please do use the comments options to open up discussions and conversations with each other- or you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you.
Teaching reflection of the month (April)
A few days ago in our staff prayer time we looked at Matthew 13:44-46. In reflecting on this a number of points came into focus:
- The Kingdom (‘of heaven’ in Matthew’s account) is of great value - nothing compares to it.
- Sometimes people ‘stumble across’ the Kingdom/Gospel - At times people do find the LORD after years of sustained and costly searching, but often this is not the case. There is no indication that the man, who found the treasure in the field, was involved in a detailed lengthy search, but rather he simply was in the right place at the right time (a bit like Simon of Cyrene - see Matthew 27:32/Mark 15:21/Romans 16:13) by ‘chance’ you may say - but as a Christian you may want to explore this further and perhaps change the vocabulary? What is the difference between being ‘blessed’ and being ‘lucky’?
- The Kingdom is real and life-changing - a bit like finding treasure or the finest pearl.
- The man and the merchant both were able to recognise the immense value in what they had found.
- Entering the Kingdom (responding to the invitation of the Gospel) involves action. Both a letting go (he sells all that he has) and a taking on (he buys the field: 44 and the merchant buys the pearl :45). This double action of letting go and taking on (investing in) clearly has a number of spiritual applications. Maybe Philippians 3:1-11 is a good text to develop ideas of letting go in order to take on that which is of greatest importance.
Ministry News update
There are three main news items from CMJ this month. Firstly, we mourn the death of our Israel ministry colleague Linda Cohen (Please see our blog for details). Secondly, four of my UK colleagues are furloughed at present, yet the core ministry of CMJ UK continues, with some encouraging outreach opportunities for our London based CBE. Thirdly, the conference set to take place from the 3rd-5th of July has been cancelled (Please see our Conference page for details) however please note that we are hosting a one-day ‘virtual conference’ on Saturday 4th July.
One good aspect of the ‘lockdown’ has been the practice of the entire staff team meeting together most week days for staff prayers, via the wonders of Zoom! This is a vital opportunity to pray for CMJ, the nation and one another in these testing and restrictive days,
In addition to this, I have been able to make more progress with my new CMJ book - 60 Days with Romans. The book has now come through the final proofreading stage and layout issues are now being discussed.
Last month I drew your attention to a book by Paul Levertoff - The religious Thoughts of the Chassidim. Alongside this I highlighted a number of other books and Olive Press Resource Papers which will help us in trying to understand the theology and practice of the Chassidim.
This month I am following this up by taking the first tentative steps into the massive tome titled Hasadism - A New History (Princeton University Press) 2018. I think somewhat alarmingly the book weighs in at more than most babies! This book combines the writings of eight leading academics that specialise in areas across Jewish theology, Jewish history, religious anthropology and cultural studies.
I am sure this book will be soon regarded as the ‘go to resource’ for those wanting a deep understanding of aspects of the Hasidic Jewish movement(s). I found chapter 26 - Hasidim and the Holocaust of special interest. So far I have read four chapters and dipped into a few more - only another 27 to go!
Monthly Bible Memory Verse:
“Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of Bnei-Yisrael, whom the Egyptians are keeping in bondage. So I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.”
(Exodus 6:5-6- verses taken from MJFB)