It’s Sunday 22nd March, 2020 and I am on my way home from broadcasting our morning church service from our place of worship.

It’s the first day of our voluntary closure of the church building for public worship. Voluntary in that it’s advice from the government to introduce social distancing, a new phrase for the moment.

I am always amazed how certain terms and phrases quickly catches on and become part of everyday communication.

As a church we agreed to close the building for public worship because for me the church is people not a building. Furthermore, we run both an Internet tv and radio station with the radio station having an app which can be downloaded for free so we agreed to stream two services on Sundays at 11am and 7pm.

Had we been told to stop praying, stop preaching or even stop calling on the name of Jesus, that would have been entirely different.

The early church was told not to use the name Jesus in public, they defied the words of men. Daniel was told he couldn’t pray to his God, he defied the Kings command.

John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress was imprisoned in Bedford, England for refusing to give up preaching as dictated by officialdom. Please note, England was officially a Christian country at the time yet still John Bunyan would spend 12 years in prison for refusing not to give up preaching.

We also introduced a daily Drop in Centre from 2pm to 5pm for anyone in the community wanting to pop in for prayer, counselling and friendship.

Daily pastoral sessions have also been introduced to engage and support new members and visitors. Conference call prayer meetings have also been introduced so we can pray collectively.

Lastly, our members are mature and know God for themselves. Apostle John, banished to the Isle of Patmos grew in his faith and spirituality. Apostle Paul, wrote most of his epistles from prison and by the time his end had come he was as close to heaven as anyone could be other than those in heaven itself.

Christian history is replete with many whose faith and spirituality and sometimes ministry grew in adversity.

Taken together, I have more to do now we are “closed” than before. I wrote to church members and others to let them know and assure them it’s an opportunity for us to minister to others who will need us at such a fearful time.

So, I’m on my way home, the sun is shining, all forms of traffic is significantly reduced.

Fewer cars on the roads, not so many people on foot walking despite it being Mothering Sunday. No child to be seen or heard anywhere because the government has asked parents to keep them home.

The local airport, train stations, bus stations are also quiet, even though it’s a beautiful spring day.

Why is everything so quiet? Coronavirus. This invisible to the natural eye disease, that is mild at one end of the spectrum yet has killed many thousands and made ill hundreds of thousands of people worldwide is in our homes, streets and country.

Seeing therefore is not believing. We cannot see the virus but it’s effect is there for all to see. At night we humans cannot see without artificial light but this does not mean everything disappears.

A very simplistic reason some give for not believing in God is they cannot see Him. This often is the response of the young atheist brought up on a diet of atheism: at home, in school, in university and in the media.

The more educated atheist may respond with “I believe in science”. Others may say, “I only believe in what can be proved, no one has proved that God exist”.

For years now I have presented this scenario in conversation with both believers and non believers alike in attempting to explain the importance of faith as rational and the only way humans make progress and grow as a specie.

There are 214,000 people living in my home town of Luton. If God were to speak audibly from the skies over Luton a very large portion of the population of Luton would hear what was said. Those sleeping, indisposed in some way and distracted would not hear what was said.

Those who heard the message could not convince the others about what they had heard. Some would even deny what they had heard.

Those of us in Luton who heard the message and believed could not convince the people of the adjoining town of Bedford nor the capital city of London, 30 miles away.

This is because people don’t actually practice living by what they see or hear. Early explorers travelled vey long distances in inadequate vessels for weeks and even months to a far and distant land based solely on “faith”. Inventors introduced new inventions often based solely on “faith” that their idea will work. Imagine being the sole person in the first aeroplane.

Humans have advanced because we really don’t live by the seeing is believing principle.

So, if you are an atheist or agnostic, please don’t fall for the lie that only seeing is believing. One of the best bible definitions of faith is: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Hebrews 11:1).

Some early explorers and inventors died on the journey or in trying to prove their invention worked but others did  prove the land existed and the invention worked.

Apostle Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He witnessed the bloody and very painful death of Jesus on the cross. Three days later he is told by a number of trusted sources that Jesus had risen from the dead. I suppose if he had only been told that Jesus was alive, he might have thought that Jesus hadn’t died so it might have been easier to believe. But he was told he had risen from the dead.

This was too much for Thomas. “Unless I see him and touch him and put my finger into the holes in his body, I will not believe he is alive”, said Thomas. (John 20:25).

Eight days later,Thomas saw and touched the risen Christ for himself and in the company of others lest later on his own mind told him it never happened.

Jesus whilst accepting that Thomas needed to see and touch him before he would believe said: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”. (John 20:29).

Our platform is the world and congregation the people.

The Lord’s servant

Lloyd Denny