• Phil Duncalfe

If suffering is a megaphone, are we listening?

CS Lewis once wrote,

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I find myself looking forward to the time when life can get back to normal. It is an easy mindset to get into, to grit your teeth, make the best of what you’ve got and hope that one day it will go back to better. As the anniversary of the first lockdown passes us by, I wonder if I’m simply putting in metaphorical ear plugs to block out the noise from the megaphone.

As we look through the bible, we see that God uses the mess of the world, invading armies, floods, plagues and suffering to shake up his people. While some of these events are judgement for a lack of faithfulness to God by an individual (Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12) or a society (Isaiah 13-27 gives several examples), some are a test (Abraham and Isaac, Daniel in the den of beasts, Jesus in the wilderness), and some are part of a bigger plan to save more people (the story of Joseph, Moses being given up by his parents). There are even passages where the suffering seems pointless and the reasons given by the author are vague other than the person suffering sees God and is satisfied (Job). Each time we see suffering in the bible, those who pause to listen get a glimpse of who God is, they see how he is faithful to his promises, and his greater plan to rescue his people. What is God showing you through the pandemic?

One thing he is showing me is that there is a need to get back to the foundations of our faith, a sense of going back to the basics both in doctrine and in rhythms of life. We’ve already reflected on Communion and Baptism this last month, two core sacraments – special or sacred practices that point us to the grace and rescue to life that we receive from God. These basic rhythms help us to listen.

We’ve dug into the meaning of mission, to be sent to those around us taking the kingdom of God with us be it to the middle east or to our neighbour next door. Death may be on our screens and radios every day, but we carry life wherever we go.

We look forward to starting our series in Genesis, grounding ourselves in the foundation story of creation and the story every book in the bible links back to. We have our first café theology at the end of February to discuss how this book is relevant to today and whether it clashes with modern science or not.

Through the month we’ll be repeating the foundational elements of the Christian life, meeting together (albeit through Zoom and Youtube), praying together and for each other, studying the scriptures together and listening to what God is saying to his people through the pain and suffering that we find ourselves in. We have provided two forms to help those request and offer support to each other through COVID safe bubbles, please do use them if you have not got a support bubble with another household.

As we go through the month, find hope in the foundations of the Christian life. Learn some new rhythms of prayer, word and community. The claim and promise of Christianity is that while these rhythms won’t save you, they will help you get to know the one who can. Lean hard on him and look forward to when suffering will be no more and the new normal of new creation will be better than the life we had before COVID and better than any life the vaccine can bring post-COVID.

I miss seeing you all in person dearly but am glad that technology allows us to see each other’s faces. Love to you all,

Phil, on behalf of the leadership team.

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