chaplain's log

  • dominic writes

    In 2019 I was in Turkey for a wedding, and made time to visit Ephesus, where the ruins of Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture are remarkably well preserved. it is quite remarkable walking down the ancient paved roads, standing in the huge amphitheatre where the Apostle Paul was brought before a crowd baying for his blood, and wandering the backstreets seeing mosaics, colourful murals and legal inscriptions still clearly carved on blocks of stone outside entrances to homes. Yet even as you walk down these majestic columned walkways it is hard not to think of the myriad slaves who laboured over the roads that they were  not allowed to walk down themselves, or the terrible loss of life amongst slaves involved in building such intricate and ornately beautiful buildings. A place to admire or to weep over? 

    I confess to feeling somewhat similar about Lent. With it's echoes of the wilderness wanderings and the subsequent sojourn of Jesus himself as a necessary precursor to his public ministry,, it is easy to see how appropriate it was as a time of preparation for adults seeking baptism in the early church, particularly in those places where proclaiming Jesus as your Lord and Saviour pitted you against the might of the Roman Empire.

    Such a contrast to my own childhood (and confused) memories of Lent where I was made to feel unworthy of God's love and grace, and desperately needed to do things that might earn His favour, particularly if it was about doing good to others. Lent therefore was a very nervy time - what if I wasn't good enough, or what if I didn't do enough? Would God's anger be turned against me?

    It is why I find the verses at beginning of Romans 8 so helpful for me as I enter into Lent. I need that reassurance that I have been set from from the law of sin and death and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. More than that, the Spirit of God gives us life, so as I think about how to spend time in Lent I am not worried or concerned that I may get it wrong. Rather, set free from fear, I can set aside more time in service or prayer or preparation, knowing that what I can do could make a real difference to others, but won't alter God's love, mercy and grace towards me.

  • Adam Writes

    In 1955, a Dutchman, known as Brother Andrew, followed God’s call and started smuggling Bibles into communist Poland to give to Christians who were facing discrimination there. Over the decades since, this work has become Open Doors, a ministry to support persecuted Christians across the world, providing practical assistance across the world, helping the suffering and persecuted church with food, medicine, health care, as well as resources such as Bibles and training for church leaders.

    Every year in January, Open Doors publishes its World Watch List where is provides analysis of the persecution and difficulties facing the Body of Christ in countries all around the world, listing the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian. The list looks at six areas:

    • Private life. What freedom does a Christian have to worship and own religious material? Is conversion to Christianity allowed? Is freedom of thought permitted?
    • Family life. How free are Christians to express their faith within their family? Is it possible to hold Christian family milestones, such as Christian marriages and funerals?
    • Community life. Can Christians live without harassment and discrimination in their local communities? How does their faith affect their education or employment?
    • National life. Does the government allow Christians to express their faith? Can converts call themselves Christians on official documents? Do the police target Christians?
    • Church life. Are Christians allowed to meet together? Can they build churches? And if they can, are they heavily monitored? Are Bibles freely available?
    • Violence. Are Christians attacked mentally or physically? Are they arrested, abducted, tortured, imprisoned or even killed? Do they face sexual harassment?

    The global pandemic has been an additional challenge. In various countries, Christians have been excluded from local relief efforts by the authorities, mocking believers for trusting Jesus for everything. In India, this is literally adding insult to injury.

    Here at St Paul’s we know the truth of Brother Andrew’s words that our prayers can go where we cannot.  Each week on the notice sheet, there is a brief prayer for one of the countries where persecution is the most extreme, which we can all pray, lifting up our brothers and sisters to God, remembering them and asking for God to intervene directly into their sufferings. The world watch list provides information about each of these countries, informing our prayers.  

    Some of us will have visited some of these countries when we could travel. We may have visited the places on holiday and been unaware of the plight of the church there. Now as we cannot travel, we can pray and learn more. Through the Open Doors website it is possible for us to write messages of hope and support to our persecuted family.
     
    Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily when we follow him.  Peter speaks of sharing in Christ’s suffering and in time seeing His glory when it is revealed to the world.  We have been spared these sufferings here in Belgium, but we can try always to remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are going through them new, even to death, and lift them up to our loving heavenly Father, who has promised never to leave us or forsake us, and who has promised to bring us into his everlasting kingdom if we endure faithfully to the end.

    Adam chairs our Mission Interest Group here at St Paul's

  • Dominic writes

    I can still remember vividly visiting Mum regularly after my Dad had died, as we had moved to be closer to her as she battled with terminal cancer. Mum was always in the kitchen, doing something that gave her the excuse to be by the back door so she could see me as I pulled into the drive. The door was always unlocked and open by the time I was out of the car and after we had embraced she would always ask if I wanted tea or coffee even though she knew the answer and the coffee was sitting in the pot keeping warm.


    Then, as I always did after exchanging a few words, I'd wander off to the lounge to say hi to Dad who would have his head in a book and would be oblivious to the fact that anyone had entered the house. About half way to the lounge it would hit me with an almost stabbing pain - what am I doing? Dad isn't here.


    Grief hits us in so many different ways doesn't it? It isn't just in the loss of loved ones, although that is the grief that hits most of us the hardest. There will be many of us who will be grieving other things as well at this time. For some it will be the loss of work and the sense of identity that is tied to what we do. For others it will be being with friends and loved ones at home or on holiday. Perhaps it is the fact that working patterns have changed and that we are not going to return to previous ways of living. There will be others who are grieving at the senseless of all that is happening and the tremendous loss of life that we seem to be able to do so little about at the moment. It is wonderful to hear that vaccines are on their way and there is light at the end of the tunnel, but many, if not most, will emerge in grief.


    It is for times such as this that even what might appear hard in Romans 8 is a real comfort. Verse 28 tells us about God working for our good. "How can this be good?" the doubters cry. "If God were good, he would never have let this happen" the mockers add. It is why we need to read verse 28 carefully. "In all things" that is, in whatever situation we find ourselves, no matter how hard, God is at work.


    We live in a broken and groaning world, full of sin and injustice and pain. As much as we wish it were not so, it is. Yet the wonder of what we read is that even in the midst of this difficulty God is at work for our good. For our good! I am not alone or without comfort, God is with me and at work. Even if I can't see it right now I can trust him for his Word never lets me down. It is the comfort I hold onto in my grief. It is the hope that brings me light.

  • Dominic writes:

    It is fair to say that many of us were looking to 2021 with eager anticipation, hoping and praying that it would be a different kind of year. For us I think it lasted just two days before we had to change our tentative plans as rules about travel, schools and returns to university began to change. Yet we are all well, were actually able to spend time together as a family over Christmas, and whilst logistics of who is where when change constantly, it is manageable. We know others, as I'm sure you all do, who have had to face much more trying and difficult times over the last year, and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.

    I've found Romans 8 a real comfort at the beginning of this year. Verses 19 to 22 talk of the whole of creation groaning, eagerly longing to be set free for what is to come. That so resonates doesn't it with a world that is struggling to know how to throw off the shackles of this costly virus, which has really brought home our human fragility.

    Yet chapter 8 says so much more. Verses 26 and 27 reflect what so many of us have experienced: "how do we pray into this current situation?" It's so wonderful to read that the Spirit knows and understands these longings and groaning that we have, and turns them into intercessions before the throne of God above. It is why God gives us his Spirit, so that we can do things we could not otherwise do.

    This leads us to the point of confidence in verse 31: if God is for us, who can be against us? Of course, it's a rhetorical question. It is clear, that there are many challenges to our human existence, many obstacles put in the way of walking faithfully and obediently with the Lord. Yet Paul wants us to see that these are as nothing compared to the wonder of knowing God in us and God for us. We are not alone or powerless in our struggles.

    Which is why we can rejoice in the confidence of verse 37: "in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." God's promise that we are secure in him, and that whatever comes our way, whether it be trouble or illness, even death itself, we will rise victorious with Christ, and overcome. It is such a wonderful hope, that we also see in lots of little ways in our daily lives and in the world around us.

    So my hope and prayer is that as we enter this new year, despite, perhaps even because of the challenges ahead, we do so full of hope and love of the God who enables us to overcome, the God who is with us in all of this; Emanuel.

  • Online Worship

    So we are unable to gather together in any form (see explanation in the post below.) During this time we will continue to be the church using as many different forms of communication as we can. First of all please look at our Online Worship page and to keep up to date and connect in other ways follow us on social media.