I greet you in the grace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. How was your past week? I pray that you have been keeping well and safe. We in Melbourne had a wet and cold week of lockdown that is, thankfully, now partially lifted.
Like you, I am learning some personal lessons during these uncertain times.
Firstly, I am learning not to take normality for granted. Situations could easily change with a day or two. Plans are thrown askew and what is taken for granted taken away without warning. Someone wisely said, make plans for the future but live each day at a time.
Secondly, I am learning to appreciate the daily privileges granted by God. Things like freedom of movement, eating as a family, driving my car, shopping, eating out, meeting other people in person. It is so easy to forget that these are privileges. There are millions of people in war torn countries for years on end that have never experience these as normality. In this pandemic, more and more people are living in far worse conditions than we have ever experienced.
Thirdly, I am learning to trust in God more. He knows what He is doing in this world and doing to me personally. I need to rest in his love, his grace, his wisdom and his might. I need to persevere by his strength. His grace is always more than enough for me in my worst and most difficult situation.
I take great comfort from the Psalmist who says: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” And again in Psalm 91, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Isn’t Psalm 91 so very apt in this time of pandemic and our uncertainties?
Let us now pause and pray that we may each be a blessing to our local community, that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship, where all are known and cared for. Pray for our homes and families, our schools and young people, and all in any kind of need or distress.
God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself: strengthen us in our daily living that in joy and in sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer of the Week
Third Sunday After Pentecost
Lord, we beseech you to keep your family, the Church, in continual godliness, that through your protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve you in good works, to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Bible reading today is taken from two passages written under difficult times of war, persecution and imprisonment.
From Habakkuk 3:17-18 we read “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”
Paul writing to the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:4-7 said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Responses to Adversity
We are living in extraordinary times. Yet it is not so exceptional when we look carefully at history – even recent history. The great depression and Second World War bring to mind what our parents and grandparents had to endure. I know a few of you have personal experience of the living through a war.
The New Testament was lived and written in arduous times of occupation, persecution and famine. They certainly had it far worse than us today. Yet, the faith of these early believers not only survived but thrived.
When we experience adversity, like the consequences of this COVID-19 pandemic, we are likely to respond in one of three ways: we may become angry; we may try to tough it out; or we may accept it with joy.
When adversity comes our way, our anger may be displayed by the question, “Why me, Lord?” We become bitter and resentful and blame God and others for our problems. We view ourselves as victims and demand that God answer our accusing question: “Why don’t You love me, Lord?”
We demand He gives us an answer to what is going on in our lives that we are not happy with. We feel entitled to life, health, wealth, and happiness. We fail to see nor believe God’s protective and loving hand in our lives. Sadly, we will never receive what God has planned for us if we stay here.
We thus need to remind ourselves of Romans 8:28, where St. Paul writes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Yes, God is still here. He is still working. His plans are the best for all who love Him. Trust him!
Tough It Out
Another way we respond to adversity is by adopting a stoic attitude, repressing our emotions. We lie to ourselves and say, “I’m toughing it out. I’m demonstrating endurance.” In reality, we are merely isolating ourselves with a shell of false bravado. We don’t meditate on God’s love, we don’t pray, we don’t rely on the Bible (God’s Word), we don’t draw encouragement from His children. We simply tell ourselves, “This will soon be over. I’m a survivor.”
This is where we need to open our lives and receive Jesus’ offer of peace. Remember, this is not your battle. God will fight for you. You need to rest in His peace after you received it.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Acceptance with Joy
This is the response God seeks from us. When adversity comes, we rest in His love and trust that He knows best. We realize that nothing can happen to us without His permission. If there is pain in our lives, we know it’s because God deems it necessary for our growth or wishes to use our pain to minister to others.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Christians these encouragements in their extreme persecution. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God revealed to the prophet Habakkuk that Israel was soon to be invaded by the Babylonians. Habakkuk knew that Israel was about to suffer intense adversity as part of God’s loving discipline of His people. Habakkuk faced the looming national tragedy with an attitude of acceptance with joy.
If Habakkuk could be joyful in the face of a national calamity, then we can rejoice in the Lord no matter what comes our way. 
The Morning Collect
Merciful Lord, we come before you in our frailty and unworthiness. We confess that we have been caught up in the pride, presumption and greed that drives our worldly society. Free us from the arrogance that afflicts our age, for now we stand confounded by conditions beyond our control or understanding. Give us humble and honest hearts to discern the greater mystery of your providence in creation. May we accept your justice and trust your redeeming mercy. Through it we will learn to trust and rejoice in you again. Through the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.
As always, it is such a joy to share this short time together with you. I would be delighted if you can let me know how you are coming along in these uncertain and difficult times. Till we meet again next week, have Christ’s peace, rejoice always, do good. Love outrageously. Enjoy life. Praise God. Amen. Goodbye.
 Psalm 18:2
 Psalm 91:2
 St Paul’s Cathedral Prayer 9th June 2021
 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
 Today God Is First, Volume 2 by Os Hillman
 Ephesians 3:20-21.