Pastoral Letter - 10th May

Eternal God,

Whose Son Jesus Christ is

The way, the truth and the life:

Grant us to walk in His way,

To rejoice in His truth

And to share in His Risen Life.

This we ask in the name of the same,

Jesus Christ Our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and forever

AMEN.


Thoughts based on today's Gospel: John Chapter 14 verses 1-14.

Dear Friends,

I remember going on holiday to Cornwall some years ago and there is nothing I enjoy more than walking the cliff paths there in the early morning. The light at that hour is at its most shimmering, there is hardly anyone around, the intense stillness is only interrupted by the bird song, which is almost excruciating in its beauty and in its volume! From the well trodden paths as I looked toward the sea, I spied a small cove beneath, where the sand was almost white and the waves were emerald green. It was the stuff of dreams. Maldives, eat your heart out! I tried to find a way to access this secret cove, which was sparkling its invitation to me in the early morning light. The beach was probably about 1,000 feet below and it was a fairly steep descent. I started well, there was a path of sorts, but this soon petered out and I had to make my way through bramble and gorse, my last Labrador, Muddle, leaping over any obstacle, as sure footed as a gazelle. Eventually I came to a promontory, the beach looked even more beautiful now that I was a little closer, but still enticingly out of reach. I was determined to get there somehow, so retraced my steps and looked again for a way down. There seemed to be none. There was nothing for it, I would have to carefully scramble down the cliff: well, it was early in the morning and I had left caution and reason back in bed. I started slowly, but then, suddenly, my feet found nothing to rest on and I started to slide down, at first gradually, then ever faster until my hands, which were reaching out for something to break my fall, were torn by brambles and stones, pebbles cascading around me as I fell. Thirty feet I had probably have slipped, my fabulous Labrador looking on from above with concern. "Stay!" I shouted authoritatively to him, but you know what Labradors are, loyal to the last so, very cautiously, nose first, he skidded down the whole way until he stood, panting, at my side. Impetuous but impressive, I thought. "Right, stay!" I ordered, at which point he just turned around and started trotting off to the left, leaving me standing. He glanced back at one point to see if I was following with a look in his eye that suggested he was thinking "Really! Humans!" I had no option but to follow. In no time at all, he had found a path, probably previously only frequented by rabbits, but it got us to within leaping distance of the beach and leap he then did, on to the white sand, which he raced across, chasing unsuspecting seagulls and then plunged into the sparkling waves in celebration. "I am going now to prepare a way for you," says the Lord in today's gospel reading. John Chapter 14 verses 1-14. We have surely all benefitted from those who have forged a way through in some area of life before us, the better for us to navigate our path, as Mudd did for me all those years ago in Cornwall. Those who campaigned for the vote, for women and for men; those who argued for better recognition of workers' rights and other human rights; those who founded the National Health Service on whom we are especially dependent at the moment; those who are even now engaged in medical trials to find a new vaccine to defeat Covid 19. It is in the manner of progress that some go into the unknown and the unchartered, there to prepare a way for others to follow more safely, with a more sure step. And our gratitude goes out to each and every one of them. Part of the wonder and the importance of Christianity for me is that through it, we discover more deeply the truths which underpin our identity as human beings. We are mortal, we are vulnerable, we get sick, we fall out with others, we grieve, we question, we need forgiveness, we need strength, we die, we need love. Jesus comes to embrace all these experiences and so many more besides, inhabits them and thereby alters them into experiences where we can meet with Him. When we question, when we feel tempted, we can recall his time in the wilderness (Matthew 4 v.1-11) and in Gethsemane (Matthew 26 v. 36-46) When we grieve we remember that "Jesus wept" at the death of His friends, Lazarus (John 11 v. 35) When we feel out of control, the victim of other people's anger, we can revisit His path to Calvery (Matthew 27 v. 31-33) and when we are faced with death, we can know that He too has been there before us "Preparing a way before us" THROUGH that experience into New Life, beyond the touch of pain, suffering or death, in the dazzling dawn of resurrection and new beginnings. From all these moments, and from so many more recorded in the scriptures, we can draw comfort and draw strength, that He has filled all darkness with the light of His presence and all pain with the afterglow of His peace. He is, in that sense, the one who has indeed "gone before us", to navigate a way beyond these things into His future for us. Christ Jesus came to love us into a deeper experience of life: to quench our fears, to address our concerns, to reach out into our pain, to forgive our failures, to affirm our self worth, to tell us that we are lovable, to believe in us so much that He entrusts the building of His kingdom to us. The paths He calls us to walk, He has trodden on before us. No matter how precarious, we will find foot-holds to secure our way forward, He assures us of that. There is no-where we can go in the landscape of living that He has not gone before us and thereby transformed such experiences into places where we can meet with Him. "Do not be afraid, I am with you always." So in gratitude let us entrust ourselves to Him anew, He who stands before us, arms outstretched, who calls us, reaches out to us, saying to each and every one of us: "I am the way, the truth, the life. Believe, draw strength and trust in me." With blessings for your journey into God's future for you and with all good wishes. Jeff


PRAYER

Lord, the paths some of us are being asked

to walk at the moment seem no paths at all.

Sharp stones cut open our feet, obstacles seem in our way.

We do not have a clear sense of which direction we are travelling,

Or how long this part of the journey will take.


Some of us are walking in lonely places,

Others are carrying friends and loved ones,

Many are exhausted and desperate for relief and refreshment.


We are grateful to those who encourage us on our way,

But we still need to know that you too are with us,

Accompanying us, empowering us, guiding us

Through these weeks of wilderness wanderings,

Through the panic of this pandemic.


Two thousand years ago you said to your friends,

"I am the way, the truth and the life."

Help us always to have the sense

That we are travelling toward you.

Help us glimpse and understand

More of your truth in ways that set us free.

Help us to feel alive, with your life springing up

Within us and inspiring us to live.


On our journey, walk with us and keep us safe.

On our journey, help us to make friends and to sustain our current friendships.

On our journey, give us a sense of direction and call us home,

There to know your presence, your purpose and your peace.


Jesus, in your name we ask these things.

AMEN.



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Twickenham

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