From us to you:

Together @ St. Mary's




Dear Friends,


80 years ago tomorrow, on the 30th April 1940, at the age of 21, my father (photo above) was captured by German soldiers, having been shot in the shoulder and the leg and left for dead by all but one of of his comrades. They’d had a rough crossing over three nights and three days across the North Sea to Norway. They were then sent into battle on comparatively empty stomachs armed with only left over guns from the First World War.

Some of his comrades were shot within minutes, others drowned as they tried to escape from the unequal numbers and guns of their enemies, my father and his mate Onslow Thomas were shot, captured and taken prisoner.

As they were in such a bad state they and others who had been captured during the day were, in the dead of night, told to get out of the truck that was transporting them, lined up against a hedge in the open country and realised that they were to be shot.

My father turned to the man next to him, a stranger, and said "I don’t know whether you believe in God, but I would start saying your prayers if I were you." He said he began to say the Lord’s Prayer.

It sounds improbable, but at that moment a German officer rode by on a motorbike, saw what was just about to happen and stopped it. "Take these men to hospital immediately" he ordered, and that’s the last my father remembered until waking up to see the kind face of a hospital nurse the next day.

Years later, when things were difficult for my father or life was hard, he would say "This is nothing Jeff. I survived 5 years in a POW Camp, I spent months in solitary confinement for helping others to escape and I was just over 6 stone in weight when I came home." In spite of the anguish of those years, it seemed to have built up resources within him which he drew strength from for the rest of his life.

Though what most of us are currently going through is not as dramatic or as extreme as what my father and so many others experienced during the war, I am sure that I am not alone in finding that I am relying on the resources I have built up through testing times in the past, the better to deal with our present situation. 

For example:

- Friendships that have been seasoned by years of shared experiences which now give one so much warmth, inspiration and energy.

- The way we have endured adversity in years past, bereavement, disappointment, rejection, loneliness etc. has built up our emotional muscles in ways we hadn’t previously realised.

- The sense that the God has been with us in the past, prompting us through the transitions, continues to be with us now when we need His help.

As with my father, the resilience we have found within ourselves in times past to deal with these experiences and to make creative use out of them and not to be overcome by them, will stand us in good stead as we seek to glean something positive out of our present circumstances. And the influence and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is constantly being offered to us as we seek to make sense out of what is happening, as we call upon Him in our hour of need, as we seek to be a prayerful conduit for grace for others and as we pray that we may recognise the opportunities for serving Christ in the lives of one another throughout this shared experience.

May all of us find within ourselves, and beyond ourselves in the power of the Holy Spirit, the physical, psychological and emotional resources we need to deal creatively with the coming days and may this experience draw us ever closer to God and closer to each other in the mutual bonds of healthy dependency, which is intrinsic to how God has made us.

Blessed are they who recognise their need for God,

The strength of the Holy Spirit will be given them!

With continued prayers and good wishes.

Jeff




PRAYER

Lord, we give thanks for all those who have intervened in our lives

To make that essential difference between hope and fear,

Intimacy and isolation, acceptance and rejection.

Please prompt us to be there for others

To make those differences too,

That we may live as people prompted 

By the love you have for each and every person in our lives.

In these strange and challenging days of Covid 19,

Please help us to know that you are with us, no matter what,

That nothing can ever distance you from us or us from you.

Help us Lord to find within us, the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit

To assist and resource us for the days to come.

May we know your strength surrounding and empowering us

To deal creatively with these current circumstances

And to use this time constructively to reflect on what

Really, lastingly matters and then to invest our lives

In those things which give dignity and purpose to our existence.

This we ask, in the assurance of your presence, power and protection,

And in Jesus’ name. 

AMEN.

Almighty God,

Who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the Risen Lord,

Give us such knowledge of His presence with us, 

That we may be strengthened and sustained by His Risen Life

And serve you continually in righteousness and truth

This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and for ever.

Amen.


It may be good to read Luke Chapter 24 verses 13-35 before reading this letter..............


Dear Friends,


Apparently there is a cartoon doing the rounds on social media at the moment of the Devil and God in conversation. The Devil is gleefully rubbing his hands and saying "Haha, I have successfully closed down ALL the churches in Christendom!" To which God replies "That is true, but I have successfully set up my Church in every home in Christendom!" It is a huge pleasure for me, once again, to invite you to join us for a Zoom Service this Sunday, or if you are unable to do so, to follow the service (attached) in your own way in your own home. It reminds me of what we sing at Christmas, of Emmanuel, "God with us." The one who comes to make His home with us, I believe the original has "come to pitch His tent among us." So, what of the Gospel passage we are invited to engage with today? Luke Chapter 24 verses 13-35. It fascinates me that the Risen Christ did not, or at least we are not told that He did, appear to those who expected to see Him risen from the dead. Rather, He appeared to those who were grieving, questioning, frightened. That gives me great hope, as it may do you, that in our inadequacy in believing, in our honest desire to understand more, we too can meet with the presence and the power of the Risen Lord. In today's Gospel we have that wonderful story which surely resonates with many of us, which Luke alone of all the Gospel writers tells us of. Two of Jesus' B list disciples, perplexed that all had not gone to plan, that the one they thought would lead the Jewish people to a renaissance of political power and influence as their ancestor David had done, the one who was so clearly blessed by God and was therefore invincible, as God's favour rested upon Him, had been crucified, the most humiliating of executions. So, what now? What now of their plans, their expectations, their own futures? Murmuring, puzzling, questioning as they walked along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they are joined by a stranger. It is only gently, slowly, as their minds adjust to His message, that they fall into step with this man and also with another way of thinking about and understanding the scriptures. Their eyes are not opened to who He truly is until the very end. He is not one who flashes into their lives with a huge "Ta Ra ! here I am guys, I'm risen from the dead !!!" No, God is more subtle, more humorous, more authentic than that. He joins them as He joins us on our path toward discovery, the realisation of who He truly is. What I take hope, what I take comfort, what I take encouragement from in my faltering steps toward a fuller faith is this: that as we stumble along in the semi darkness of understanding, as we explore the Christian faith and try to make sense of it and how it connects with the challenges and experiences of our lives, as we search humbly and honestly for truth, Christ is with us, beside us, accompanying us, perhaps subtly, nudging us toward a fuller awareness of the truth which, as John's Gospel has it, "will set us free." (John Ch. 8 v. 32) To look straight from darkness into the bright reality of the sun would surely blind us, our eyes need to adjust to the full impact of the light. Why should this not be so with our souls also? And at St. Mary's or the other churches we attend, is not that the business we are primarily engaged in? To grow more accustomed to the light, to grow more acclimatised to the truth of the generosity, fullness, wonder, mystery, passion of who God is, moment by moment, Sunday by Sunday, slowly but surely aligning the truth of who we are with the truth of who God is. Perhaps we could not bare the full impact of His presence were He to appear to us as He truly is. Perhaps we need time not just for the "amendment of life," as the Prayer Book has it, but also for the slow and steady alignment of our lives with His, our will with His, our capacity for loving with His way of loving, our need to forgive with His commitment to forgive. The truth that shines from this Gospel to us today is surely this: that God is with us on our journey, whether we recognise Him or not. He is with us every step of the way, accompanying us, befriending us, never deserting us. And He will, in His time not in ours, reveal to us the fullness of His presence. Only then, it may well be, that we will know that He has been with us our whole life long. For He is "Emmanuel. God with us." Let us give thanks for that, ask that we may have a deeper awareness of that and pray that others too may take comfort and strength from a growing sense that He is with them in whatever challenges they may be facing, wherever life is leading them. Alleluia. Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! In Jesus' name. AMEN.