WIC Weekly March 22nd 2020
Warsaw International Church
Mobile +48 601 331 032
Worship every Sunday at ul. Miodowa 21 (near Old Town) at 11:00 AM
Entrance from Schillera Street
Sadly, the spreading of the coronavirus in Poland has been rapid this past week, and the resulting developments have rather overtaken us. With church services restricted to 50 persons by government decree and many churches closing down anyway for the time being, it was decided to suspend services at WIC, initially until the end of March, but probably for much longer.
Consequently, I will now be sending out the order of service together with readings, hymn words, the sermon, prayers of intercession and notices to our regular worshippers as a PDF file on Saturdays. If you would like to receive this as well, please write to me at: email@example.com
Another hopeful development is that some of our technically minded worshippers are exploring other forms of online worship. We’ll keep you informed of any decisions taken in this respect.
Poland’s borders have now been closed, and there is no international air traffic. This means that one or two of our worshippers are stranded in their home countries and will not as yet be able to return to Poland. Please pray that they may cope with this additional problem and may keep trusting the Lord, as He knows what is best for them.
Above all, let us join Christians all over the world in praying that people in every nation will take this opportunity (our disasters are God’s opportunities) to turn away from their sins, coldness of heart, ignoring of God and seeking of pleasure, and fall on their knees in desperate prayer for the Lord to have mercy on them and bring healing to their land. If there is spiritual cleansing going on in our hearts, the Lord will hear our prayers and take the pestilence away.
It would be great if our worshippers could use our regular Sunday morning worship time from 11 to 12 as an opportunity to pray, read the Bible, listen to hymns etc. at home, until the situation normalizes. That way we can somehow remain in spiritual touch as a congregation.
Last Sunday’s sermon
Exodus 17, 1-7; Romans 5, 1-11; John 4, 5-26
Reading through today’s words in the New Testament text from Romans 5, you too – like me – may have been struck by what it says in verse 3: “We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance”. Do we rejoice over the coronavirus? Do we rejoice when we run into problems and trials? If the Polish president had said those words, we would just laugh at him. If the Pope said those words, many people would be outraged.
But those words were written by the greatest missionary of all time: Paul. We know that he knew what he was talking about. He had experienced more trials – more beatings, more stonings, insults and arrests – than anybody else. So we think: how could he possibly say such a thing, about rejoicing in our trials? It’s as unexplainable as the case I mentioned two weeks ago, quoted by the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon, about the lady who had cancer and was incredibly joyful and at peace, because of her faith. We can’t understand it.
Compare this attitude with the more familiar response of the people in the Old Testament reading from Exodus, and the Gospel reading from John. In the Old Testament reading, the Israelites are complaining again, because they have little water to drink. They’re afraid they are going to die of thirst. They have a great need for water. A crisis situation.
In the Gospel reading, the Samaritan woman at the well also has needs. She gets thirsty too, and she has to come a long way to get water and carry it back home. Her personal life also seems to be in a mess. She has had five husbands and is now living with a man who is not her husband. Either they divorced her, or maybe they died, or maybe she was a loose woman – or all of those things together. But she has great needs. Like the Israelites in the desert, her life is hard. She’s in a bit of a crisis as well.
What about their faith? The Samaritan woman would have had some Jewish blood in her, and her faith was a Samarian version of Judaism. She believed that one day the Messiah would come, and make everything clear to people. So she believed in God’s anointed Servant, who would come to lead His people. But for her, that was something in the distant future. For the meantime, she had to cope with her hard everyday life.
The Israelites seemed to have even less faith than the Samaritan woman. Life in the desert was getting so hard for the Israelites that they were questioning whether God was still with them. Or maybe some of them were already believing that God does not exist?: “Is the Lord among us or not?”
We can easily understand both the Samaritan woman and the Israelites in the desert. We would agree that life is hard – sometimes almost impossibly hard to bear. And because of our own personal experience, we can sympathise with people who suffer a lot. We can sympathise with people like the Polish Jewish resistance leader Marek Edelman, who went on to become a leading cardiologist in Poland after the war. When he was asked about his faith, considering what had happened to the Jews during the war, he said: “God was sleeping”. We may not agree with that, but we can sympathise with him.
But in our readings, that’s not the end of the story. When the Israelites cry out to Moses in their need, God steps in, in a supernatural way. When Moses strikes the rock with his staff, water comes gushing out from it, for the people to drink. And when the Samaritan woman happens to meet Jesus by the well, God again has stepped in – because, really, Jesus met her. Jesus not only tells her everything about her past life, but also reveals Himself to her as the true Living Water: the Messiah, for whom she has been waiting. God steps in – and we can expect Him to step in during this virus crisis.
You see, in our life it’s like this: we are forced to put up with whatever God sends us. He may send us rain; He may send us sunshine. Right now He’s sending us some very bad weather. But there is also one more thing. Our readings show that there are times when the supernatural does come into our life. God comes into our life. We have no control over that, either. But we can certainly desire it, long for it, with all our hearts. We can even expect it. We can expect God to come to us.
This situation in Warsaw today - what does it remind you of? People are frantically making last-minute purchases. The streets are emptying. Everybody is rushing home, to board up their houses and apartments. The Great Evil is stalking the streets outside. What does it remind you of? The Passover, perhaps? Everybody’s worried about what’s coming: the Angel of Death.
But who are the ones who should be feeling safe? The children of God! We Christians! Why? Because we’ve smeared the blood of a lamb over our doorposts? Not literally – but in a far more real way: because of our faith in Christ the Lamb of God, we are covered by the blood of Jesus. No harm can befall us in this crisis, because God is on our side. We might be infected physically – though I hope not – but spiritually we are safe. It is the rest of the world that will tremble spiritually: who will they turn to, if things get really bad and they don’t have a Saviour?
Imagine that you find, and very much want to buy, your dream house; but you’re worried that someone else might buy it first. What do you do? You quickly pay a down-payment on it – a payment in advance, to reserve it for you. You have the promise that one day it will be yours. Paul says, elsewhere, that our down-payment is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, whom God gives us. The Holy Spirit in us, when Christ comes into our hearts, is a guarantee of wonderful things to come.
Wouldn’t you like to be like Paul – having peace and joy, in this present global crisis, without any anxiety, panic or fear? Paul says it is possible. Paul says that God “has given us His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love”. And because the Spirit is a down-payment, we will experience more and more of Him.
I know how anxious and uncertain you’re feeling. But at this special time, we are God’s shining lights in a dark world. If we don’t shine, nobody else will. Let’s be faithful in prayer. Let’s trust the Lord to heal this world. This crisis is an opportunity from God. Many people will turn to Him, and leave their sins behind. Let’s live for Jesus. And may His Spirit lead us safely through the coming weeks. Amen.
This Sunday’s readings
22 March is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Verse for the week: “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see!” (John 9, 25). Psalm: Psalm 23. Gospel reading: John 9, 1-41.
Food of the Spirit
Thoughts about the coronavirus from a Chinese pastor
[printed here again, with some updating changes, as it is so much more relevant now] The situation is so critical, yet we are trusting in the Lord’s promises, that His thoughts towards us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that He allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us. Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people, but we have a responsibility to pray for those who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ. First, we are to seek the peace of Christ to reign in the people’s hearts (Hebrews 3:15). Christ has already given us His peace, but His peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33). Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and, with the world, we would be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death.
Why do only Christians have this peace? Because of sin, humans deserve the trials and tribulations that come upon them, the Lord says: the wicked have no peace (Isaiah 48:22). We were all sinners, but Christ, because of faith, took our penalty and gave us His peace. Christians may with the world face the same tribulations, but such tribulations are no longer punishment, but a new opportunity to grow nearer to the Almighty, to purify our souls, and an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
In other words, when disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love. And, as Paul firmly believed, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? . . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roman. 8:35-39). Spoken for today, the pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ. These words are so comforting for us, we have already become one body with Christ. We have a part in His sufferings, and we have a part in His glory, all of Christ’s is ours, and our all is Christ’s. Therefore, Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this world; the pestilence cannot harm us. If we die in the pestilence, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter into His glory.
I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the Gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God. Our Lord Jesus through faith experienced an incomparable suffering of death, yet God raised Him from the dead, and sat him at His right hand (Acts 2:32-36). The pestilence is not just an observable disaster, but – even more – it is a spiritual struggle. You should first wage a battle for your heart, and secondarily battle for the soul of your nation.
We earnestly hope that you would know that not a sparrow falls without the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29). With so many souls facing pestilence, can it be outside God’s will? All that we are experiencing, is it not like Abraham facing Sodom, and Jonah facing Nineveh? You are your nation’s Abraham and Jonah. You must pray for God’s mercy upon your nation, and bring peace upon it through your prayers and your testimony.
Seek peace for your nation, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people! Through online networks, guide and comfort your friends and loved ones with the Gospel, reminding them that our lives are not in our own hands, and to entrust their lives to God who is faithful and true. Only through the hope of the Lord’s mercy will your nation be saved. Pastor from Wuhan
Please be informed that your Data Administrator within the meaning of Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) 2016/679 of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation, ”GDPR”), is Warsaw International Church with its registered office in Warsaw (00-789) at ul. Willowa 1.