Lockdown stories: meeting and modelling Jesus
In this instalment of our series of blogs commemorating the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK, Messy Church leader Mary Judkins shares how she found glimpses of light, comfort and hope in the past year.
Life as we knew it ground to a halt
I had many mixed messages while self-isolating during the three lockdowns of the past year, both negative and positive.
'Your hot tub pictures make us laugh,' was the most encouraging!
I held on, and still do, to Jesus’ words, '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…' John 14:27
It’s been a tough time. Messy Church in person in our local school was last held in March 2020 when we explored the second chapter of Holy Habits in Messy Church: ‘Gladness and generosity’. In the first month we looked at chapter one, ‘What is following Jesus all about?’ Our aim in using this new book by Lucy Moore and Andrew Roberts was to help develop discipleship among our Messy Church families, just as Jesus commanded ‘Go and make disciples… I am with you.’
We had a fantastic morning, and then Covid-19 struck and life as we knew it ground to a halt.
But in this pandemic year I have learned there are at least four things to review:
1. How I spend my time
Maybe I could read more Christian books? Mike Pilavachi’s book Wasteland? Encountering God in the desert (Kingsway Publications, 2003) has a preface by Bishop Pete Broadbent, who writes: ‘Mike Pilavachi has learnt the hard way that the desert is the place where we meet Jesus.’ Pilavachi suggests that Christians need to go into the desert to find the reality of God. For many, including me, this is where we have been during Covid. Reading this book afresh has helped.
God was there in this tough desert journey. In the Old Testament we see that in this inhospitable place the Israelites were made God's people; they drew close to God and remembered during difficult years. In the New Testament John the Baptist comes from desert life where repentance can take place, pointing to and baptising Jesus, who then fasts for 40 days tempted by the devil.
2. My Christian daily walk
In the desert we stand alone before God, and can reflect on our faith, examine our values and praise God, just spending time with Him – relying on Him.
I self-isolated because of previous bouts of pneumonia and asthma. I miss my regular visits into school but was able to keep in contact with the head and other members of staff, parents and extended families via social media; and doing weekly Collective Worship sessions via Microsoft Teams. Despite the physical isolation, my calling to serve God there, to be His servant, has been affirmed and renewed.
3. My Christian service
What is God asking me to relinquish? What ‘new thing’ is He asking me to do? Our Messy Church families were mostly ‘unchurched’ (I realise this is not always a popular word) – they needed continuity. ‘Serving with gladness’ was our watchword – thanks to Andrew Roberts and week two of the online Holy Habits home group which ran last summer, paving the way for the current online Holy Habits home group: Following Jesus taking place this Lent.
God told me to do a weekly video – a short one - so that our families could at least see and hear me – a Bible story, reflection, prayer and an activity. I thought that I was going to do six at most. The Holy Spirit had other plans. I am up to Messy Video 48! And they’re not only being watched by our local families, and Cornwall region Messy Church, they’ve been seen by friends worldwide, including those of other faiths. ‘Messy Church-in-a-bag’ and Messy envelopes were also sent or hand-delivered monthly and God added more families to our number.
4. My Christian priorities
We all need time with friends, but being in the desert has given me the opportunity to study God’s word more, and to explore the meaning of church. That isn’t being comfortable behind four walls once a week, but being ‘out there’ telling others that Jesus died, rose, and ascended, that we have His Holy Spirit, and encouraging others to become disciples – Jesus’ great commission.
If we believe the Kingdom of God is Good News then we need to get rid of superficiality; we need to go deeper, to be changed profoundly, however painful and lonely that change might be. I have met Jesus again in lockdown. I have shouted at him, rehearsed the hurts, and wept. No deadlines, no meetings to drive to, but time to be honest with him and listen, with time to hear what he is saying to me, and to ponder the wise words of close Christian friends on the phone or social media.
The main thing I have learned is that I cannot rely on myself. Nothing eternal is up to me. Jeremiah 29:11 has become my watchword, ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’. It is what God wants that matters.
A hymn by W F Lloyd, written in 1824, echoes this truth. It’s a hymn my late brother meditated on as he was dying from cancer aged 34.
My times are in thy hand; my God, I wish them there; my life, my friends, my soul, I leave entirely to thy care.
My times are in thy hand, whatever they may be; pleasing or painful, dark or bright, as best may seem to thee.
My times are in thy hand; why should I doubt or fear? My Father's hand will never cause his child a needless tear.
My times are in thy hand, Jesus the Crucified; those hands my cruel sins had pierced are now my guard and guide.
As Lent 2021 approached my thoughts turned to Easter, with planning for our Messy Church families, and how to further nurture their discipleship. The advert for the online Lenten Holy Habits home group: Following Jesus popped up – I had to sign up! I’m loving anything online! After only two sessions [at the time of writing] I have not been disappointed. We have previously looked at the Early Church to discover how their ‘holy habits’ can be ours as lockdown eases, but more importantly we need to look to Jesus and model our lives on his holy habits. The Q&A sessions with chat have been encouraging and honest. And, please God, may we grasp the opportunities he is giving us rather than going back to the old ways.
Mary Judkins is a former teacher, Mary Judkins retired six years ago from her role as an Education Officer at Kirklees, leading projects aimed at promoting greater mutual understanding by children and young people of the different faiths represented in the local community. She studied theology at Bristol University, and married her doctor husband in 1973.
She moved to Cornwall 5 years ago, where took on the Regional Coordinator role for Messy Church Cornwall West, and became co-leader of her local Messy Church. Under the new Messy Church support structure she is now a member of the national Advocates support team for Messy Church. Mary is also taking part in the Holy Habits: Following Jesus online Lent group.
If you're interested in looking at the Holy Habits through the life of Jesus in your own church community or home group, you can find the book and videos via the buttons below.
Holy Habits: Following Jesus videos Holy Habits: Following Jesus