Hello friends, my name is Richard Keith and it’s my privilege to serve you as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in NSW and the ACT.
I want to start by saying that I am proud of the way that you have responded to the current emergency. We have all had to make sacrifices. On top of everything else, our church buildings have been closed. Our physical gatherings were stopped and we have had to meet online. But those sacrifices you made have helped reduce the number of cases of the coronavirus in Australia.
I know that some of you who live in the country are wondering what all the fuss is about. I get that because I live in a small town too. But in my small town we had six cases and one of them died. And how did she get it? She’d been on a bus trip in New Zealand. Now, I didn’t know her. But people I do know did. We know too well that this isn’t just a city problem. This is our problem. The virus doesn’t care where you live. It can hurt you. And it can hurt the people you care about.
Last Friday the Prime Minister announced the first stage of the easing of restrictions. Little by little we are reopening our homes, our businesses and our lives. And from 15th of May we can meet in person for a church service for up to 10 people. That’s not a lot of people and it comes with a lot of conditions. We have to provide 4 square metres per person. We have to pay close attention to personal hygiene. And we have to keep a record of who attended each time. Maybe for you it isn’t the right time to have church for 10. Maybe later when the limit is raised to 20 or maybe 100. But that will always be a local church decision. No one is going to make that decision for you.
It’s just a start without any guaranteed time frame. This isn’t something we’ve done before. We are not travelling along a familiar route with well-known landmarks that we can recognize and tell ourselves that we are not far from home. We have not had a pandemic like this in living memory. No one knows how long it will take or what it will be like when we get there. But that is all the more reason why we can’t afford to get impatient now or give up and lose all that we have gained.
What I mean is that this crisis is happening to all of us. It is relentlessly exposing the assumptions of our previously comfortable lives. It is showing us who we really are. But if you are tempted to skip digital church next Sunday, other people are hungering for it. They can’t get enough of it. They suddenly realise that life is fragile and uncertain and they are reaching out for God and for his people.
So this is what we are going to do. We are going to be good citizens of Australia and good neighbours in our communities. We are going to stay connected to each other. And we are going to keep looking for new ways of sharing the gospel and for pursuing God’s mission with vigour, without leaving behind the weak and the vulnerable.
In conclusion, it wouldn’t hurt me to open up my Bible. In Luke 24 we find two disciples walking home along a familiar path. Their hearts were heavy and their steps were slow, but the risen Christ met them and walked along with them. And their hearts burned within them as he opened the Scriptures to them, showing how it was God’s plan for him to suffer before rising again.
In this present crisis we are walking along a very unfamiliar path. Our hearts may be heavy and our steps may be becoming slow. It might even be tempting to give up or to feel sorry for ourselves. In this present crisis, discover instead the life changing truth that the risen Christ is with us in our journey, present in his Word and by his Spirit and in the fellowship of his people, even when they meet on Zoom. Let us walk with Christ and keep in step with the Spirit and not give up until we find our way home together.
Thank you for listening.