WIC Weekly May 23rd 2021
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
At its meeting last Tuesday, the Church Council made a decision for WIC to return to in-person worship on 13 June. The pandemic infection rate in Poland is currently fairly low, enabling us to resume normal worship while observing the usual precautions.
Also looking ahead, a Mothers / Ladies Day service is planned for 30 May, which is being organized entirely by our sisters. Last year's service was very well received.
This Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost, and the service will hopefully also include a testimony by one of our sisters.
Here is your link for the Sunday service: Warsaw International Church - Sunday Service Meeting ID: 818 1714 5932
Recordings of our Sunday services are available on our wic.org.pl website or by googling "Warsaw International Church YouTube".
A prayer group meets every Saturday at 8 pm CET. Feel free to take part in these online meetings - the Zoom link is: Saturday Prayer Meeting Meeting ID: 847 9391 7308
Thank you for your continuing support and prayers for our church and for one another. Please remember that WIC is entirely self-supporting: without your contributions we cannot operate as a church.
Should you wish to make a contribution to WIC, the church's bank details are as follows:
Warsaw International Church Santander Bank Polska S.A. IV/Oddział w Warszawie ul. Jana Pawła II 17 00-854 Warszawa Polish złoty (PLN) account: PL 63 1090 1056 0000 0000 0600 9128
We extend our sincere condolences to Brother Sarin, whose father and uncle have passed away in India. We pray for the recovery of Sarin's mother and grandmother, and for a strengthening of faith for Sarin and all his relatives following this tragic loss. "Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping" (Psalm 39:12).
We continue to pray for the health of Sister Anna's sister-in-law in Turkey, who is undergoing chemotherapy.
Let us continue to pray that the pandemic and its consequences may cause increasing numbers of people to turn to Jesus in their need.
Please pray for peace in the Middle East, where Israel and the Palestinians are again fighting each other and many innocent people have been killed. Only Jesus can bring peace between Jews and Muslims. Oh, if only those concerned would realize this!
Please also continue to maintain our asylum seekers in your prayers: the Green family in Azerbaijan, and Brother Vahid in the UK.
Last Sunday's sermon was preached by Pastor Harry:
The Christian Church celebrated this last Thursday as Ascension Day – the day when Jesus ascended to heaven after appearing to His disciples many times since He rose from the dead. During the time of His appearances, He convinced His disciples and followers that He was still alive and was not a ghost – in a sense, He was still physically alive, because, for example, He was able to take bread and fish in His hands and give it to them by the lakeside. Also, Thomas was able to put his finger into the holes in Jesus’ hands, and into His side, where the soldier had pierced Jesus body on the cross. So Jesus’ resurrection body was really unique – He wasn’t a spirit without a physical body, but at the same time He wasn’t bound by the laws of nature! He could appear and disappear at will. And remember that Paul says that over 500 of Jesus’ followers saw Him at one point – and most of them were still alive when Paul wrote those words to the Corinthian Christians.
Also during His appearances, Jesus said and did many things. He encouraged people to believe in Him, even though they wouldn’t see Him in the future. He told Peter to take care of His sheep – meaning, to care for the believers. He breathed on His disciples and gave them His Holy Spirit. He continued to explain the Scriptures to them, and promised them that they would soon receive an outpouring of the same Holy Spirit, but that they must first wait in Jerusalem until this happens. And He told them that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name, to all nations. That’s a remarkable prophecy – because that’s exactly what has happened: the Gospel has been preached all over the world since then!
And then Jesus was taken up into heaven, after He had blessed the disciples. We are told the disciples worshipped Him – this means that they now fully realized that He had come straight from God. And we too are to worship Jesus, because He’s not just an ordinary man like many people think. He’s not just a prophet like the Muslims think. He’s not just a teacher like the Jews think. He is God the Word: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Jesus is the Word. And as they worshipped, the disciples felt great joy – and they praised God continually, in the temple in Jerusalem. They knew that God was so close to them.
Isn’t it strange that, in just these recent days, there has been such terrible unrest precisely in Jerusalem – precisely around the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is in the compound of the old Jewish temple itself! The mosque was built on top of the Temple Mount. One of the walls enclosing the mosque is the Western Wall – also known as the Wailing Wall – which was originally part of the Temple built by Herod the Great – the same temple where the disciples worshipped, and which Jesus knew so well! It’s where Jews still pray, on the other side of the wall!
But neither the Jews nor the Muslims recognize Jesus as the Word – Jesus as God. They fight each other – but they are united in rejecting Jesus. They are united in regarding Him as a blasphemer. And yet, Jesus came to lead both Jews and Gentiles such as Muslims to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. With Jesus, there can be peace in the Middle East! – but only with Jesus! That’s what the Ascension made possible – because as it says in our New Testament reading: “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead, and exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Saviour – that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins”. Because Jesus has been lifted up into heaven, He is now at God’s right hand as Prince and Saviour. And He can lead people to repent, and forgive us our sins, and give us peace.
There are people who think that if they go to another person to confess their sins against God, their sins will be forgiven by that person. Not so. You can go to a priest, for example, and confess your sins against God to that priest – and he may give you absolution and tell you your sins have been forgiven. But only God can forgive you your sins. And God forgives you your sins through Jesus Christ. Not through a pastor; not through a priest; not through a rabbi; not through an imam – but through Jesus Christ. And Jesus actually did this through His death on the cross – He “tasted death for every man” (Hebrews 2, 9).
So many people fail to realize this – because we live in a world where “anything goes”. Jews and Muslims, and even some Christians, think that if they just turn to a vague idea of God, or Allah, or a prophet, or a saint, or a priest, and ask for forgiveness, their sins will be forgiven. But the Bible doesn’t say that. Our verse for this week – from Acts chapter 10, verse 43 – states very clearly that “everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through His name” – which means, “by His authority”; because it was Jesus who procured our salvation and forgiveness in the first place – He obtained it for us. So salvation and forgiveness of sins only become active when they are received by faith in Jesus Christ. We have to claim that forgiveness, by believing in Him. Just like we have to claim our salvation by believing in Him.
Over the past year, Ania and I can recall at least two occasions where we did not act on a special offer – and so we missed out on the benefits. First of all, there was a voucher we received for a considerable discount on hiking boots in a sports shop – good hiking boots can be very expensive. All we had to do was make use of the voucher by a certain date – which we failed to do, so no discount. And secondly, our niece gave us two free tickets for any play at the theatre where she works – again, they had to be used by a certain date, and we didn’t use them.
That’s how it is with receiving forgiveness of sins – you have to claim it, by sincerely turning to Jesus. I believe God’s grace is available to us all, for us to find faith – even though our hearts are inclined towards self-centredness and even evil. But in our hearts, somehow, we have to say “yes” to Jesus – otherwise our sins are not forgiven to our benefit.
Jesus said that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all nations – and that His followers were going to do that. We are Jesus’ followers. It’s our task to get people to realize their sins, including the sin of unbelief, and to point them towards Jesus, if their sins are to be forgiven. Just think of it: how many of your friends and relatives have not had their sins forgiven, because they haven’t claimed their forgiveness from Jesus? How many political leaders, religious leaders, almost entire nations, have not had their sins forgiven, because they haven’t turned to Jesus? We must pray for the scales to be removed from their eyes; but we must also talk to them if we can.
May God give us the grace and courage to do so. Amen.
Readings for 23 May
Verse for the week: [Jesus said:] "The world's sin is that it refuses to believe in Me" (John 16, 9 - NLT).
Psalm: 104, 24-34.35b. 1st New Testament reading: Romans 8, 22-28. Gospel reading: John 16, 5-15. 2nd New Testament reading: Acts 2, 1-8. 12-21.
Food of the Spirit
A Christian Perspective On Covid-19
We face an unprecedented global crisis and, as followers of Jesus, key questions emerge: why is this happening? How should we respond? Where is God in this situation? In times like these, when life as we know it has been turned upside down, it’s crucial that we have a good Bible-based theology. Theology is our understanding of the nature of God. This in turn influences the way we see and respond to the world. Most churches around the world have stopped meeting in person – for obvious, sensible and necessary reasons. Some, however, have not, citing their belief that God will protect them from the virus. This is bad theology, and it might cost lives. God does protect, and He does heal. Yet we are His hands and feet, and it’s vital that we play our role, listening and acting upon the advice of experts. I trust God with my health – but I also try and make sure that I exercise and eat well. If I break my leg, I’ll pray for healing – but I’ll also go to the doctor. So we must trust God, but take action too.
As hard as it is to hear, the outbreak of Covid-19 is not a ‘natural disaster’. Rather it is a disaster of our own making. Viruses jump species and get into humans, and environmental destruction makes this more likely to happen, and with greater frequency, as people are brought into closer contact with virus-carrying animals. Deforestation, mining, the bushmeat trade, animal trafficking and unsustainable agricultural practices are all likely factors at play. The desperation of poverty and the greed of wealth underpin a global system that is fundamentally at odds with God’s original intention of shalom between all things. God has created a world where all things are interconnected, and there are natural consequences when those connections are broken.
SICKNESS AND SIN. In some cultures, sickness is seen as directly linked to that individual’s sin (that could be from sin committed during a past life for those who believe in reincarnation and karma). But the Bible does not allow such a simple ‘cause and effect’ line to be drawn between sin and sickness. For example, in the story of Job it is clear that Job’s suffering is not a result of Job’s sin but of the existence and work of Satan. In Luke 13:1- 5, Jesus is told about Pilate’s massacre of some Galileans who were in the process of offering sacrifices: He responds by pointing out that those who were killed were not greater sinners than those who were not killed. And He makes the same point about the 18 people who were killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed. In doing so He makes it clear that the existence of calamities doesn’t mean that those who fall victim to them are worse people than anybody else. Such events should not become an opportunity to judge others.
In John 9:1-5 we see Jesus meeting a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask about the sins that have caused this blindness – was it his sin or that of his parents? But Jesus is clear that his blindness is not to do with sin. Rather it provides an opportunity, ‘that the works of God might be displayed in him’ (v.3).
That is not to say that there are no links between spiritual and physical healing. As we have seen above, the Bible does present links between sin and suffering in the world: our physical suffering is part of that whole chain of sin from Genesis 3 onwards. And, there are lifestyle choices we can make that either promote or neglect our health and wellbeing. The Bible indicates there can be times when a person’s sickness is the result of personal sin, but, if and when people fall ill, there is no biblical warrant for automatically linking that with a person’s sin and we must never use that as a basis for stigmatisation and rejection. The Pharisees did that – Jesus did not. His message was one of acceptance, inclusion and compassion for all.
SIGNS OF THE END TIMES? Widespread conflict in the Middle East. A plague of locusts spreading across Africa. Flooding around the world. Surely these are signs of the end times? If there’s one thing that we can say for certain, it’s that no one can know for certain. If Jesus Himself did not know when the end times would be (Matthew 24:36), who are we to try and say? It is important to keep a wider perspective throughout all of this. Christians have been trying (and failing) to predict the end of the world since the early days of the church. Although the word ‘unprecedented’ keeps being brought up, this is not the first crisis of this scale – indeed, there have been far, far darker times in human history. The great plague of the 14th century is estimated to have wiped out nearly two thirds of Europe’s population. I’m sure they were convinced that they were in the end times too. War, disease, natural disasters – these are, sadly, nothing new. Jesus said His return would be sudden and unexpected, and He said we were to ignore anyone who thought they knew about specific dates and times (Matthew 24:3-31). The answer is that there is no answer, and that we should ignore those who think they have one.
SO HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND? The church should be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). As the shadow of coronavirus falls across the land, the call of the church is to shine as brightly as it can. We believe that suffering and sickness is not what God has intended for His creation. The mission of God is to redeem and restore the whole of creation, and the church, as the body of Christ, has a vital and distinctive role to play in fulfilling this mission. We are to follow Jesus in showing God’s love, bringing healing to a broken world and responding holistically to people’s needs: economic, emotional, spiritual and physical, both locally and globally.
When we face a situation such as we are facing today, we will naturally experience fear and worry, and our first response may be to turn inwards in panic and self-interest. But we know that we have Emmanuel, God with us, who understands our suffering, accompanies us through it and asks us to bring our fears and worries to Him in prayer.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. If we lean deeper into God’s love, choosing faith instead of fear, we may find that new opportunities emerge. We believe that God allows things to happen in the world and that He works for good. There is the potential for communities to come together more than they have before; for families to re-discover themselves; for busy people to slow down and build rhythm in their lives; for people to reconnect with God and his world; for nations to re-tune into God’s word; for churches to learn how to use digital technology to enhance ministry; for us to develop local economies and green enterprise. As we emerge from the initial extremes of Covid-19 we can ask ourselves what sort of a world we want to build going forwards. Can we repent of the world we have created, and instead look to build one without such a huge gap between rich and poor – a world that enables us to live in harmony with creation? A world where we understand that the well-being of one is bound up with the well-being of all? As Christians, we are future-oriented people. Our lives are motivated by that vision of the future that we glimpse in Revelation 21 and 22, of a time when God will dwell fully with us, in a transformed heaven and earth. Then there will be no more suffering, sickness or death, and the wider natural world will flourish with us. Through the undoubted pain and uncertainty of these current times, we can let that future hope motivate how we live our lives today as we hold on to God our Rock, pray for those affected and an end to the outbreak, and look outwards with practical love and compassion.
Ruth Valerio and Gideon Heugh (Tearfund) - excerpts
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.