Pastoral Letter - 18th September
Scroll down to read this week’s Pastoral Letter and Sunday Zoom Service details.
It's quite simple actually, though so much else is an extension of it, an explanation of it, an example of it. What we need to know is condensed into one phrase, a portal into the truth which sets us free, potentially at least if we heed its message:
"That which is flesh is flesh, That which is spirit is spirit."
John Chapter 3 verse 6.
Of course some have misunderstood this down the centuries and dislocated our created form, considering "flesh" to be base and "spirit" to be superior, not having a God given synthesis as a creation of His making. And these misrepresentations have been the source of much anguish and many heresies. The revolutionary thing is that in the same gospel as these words appear, also appear these other startling words: "And God become flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." John 1 v. 14. Elevating the apparently "lower" form into something which could be seen to be of God, anticipating that transformation in the healing of limbs, of organs, of lives.
Ours is a creator God, how can anything of His making, His willing us into being, be base or unworthy? We are wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139 verse 14) and God's hand has touched our lives. Though you and I know that one day our flesh will fail and fall away and then, that which is spirit within us will travel home. Home, from whence our essential selves originally came, home as one magnet pulls another to itself, home to live and thrive and experience and wonder. One day there will be a parting of the ways for flesh and spirit, but while we live here in these realms of contemporary reality, our task is to allow the Spirit to inform and inspire our bodies to serve not materialistic or sensual ends, but rather, the purposes which give dignity and integrity to our existence. "Christ has no hands on earth now, but ours," as Theresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish mystic has it: "Christ has no body on earth but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours. You are the eyes with which He looks With compassion on the world, Yours are the feet with which He Walks the earth to do good, Yours are the hands with which He blesses the earth. Yours are the hands, Yours are the feet, Yours are the eyes, You are His body. Christ has no body now on earth But yours." Our bodies are fascinating: how they differ from one another, how they grow, how they mend, how they sense; how our physical selves effect our psychological selves; how depression or rejection can often result in a physical manifestation; how an outward hug or kiss can bring about an inner experience of emotion and uplift. We are extraordinarily, inextricable, both flesh and spirit. We are told that, of all the world's main religions, ours, Christianity, embraces more positively and accepts more affirmingly the physicality of our being. We celebrate our God as a Creator of all that is, ours is a God who took human form and touched bodies with His own; ate, drank, cried, slept; washed feet, used spittle to heal; ours is a God to whom a woman with a haemorrhage reached out and His wellbeing and peace flooded her body with healing; ours is a God who suffered whipping, nailing, dying in pain upon a cross, you can't get more brutally physical than that. Many of us have had to face, this past year at least, the potential threat to our physical wellbeing from Covid 19. We have taken precautions to protect ourselves from infection from others, we have desisted from physical contact, indeed physical proximity with all but those closest to us; we have even deprived ourselves of the body and blood of Christ in His Eucharist and His presence too in the person of our brothers and sisters in church. But what I have observed, like a strong and shining light throughout this time of darkness, is that, although the focus was necessarily a physical one as we protected ourselves from infection, with the consequences perhaps to the ultimate degree, there has also been a significant flourishing, a coming into the light, of things spiritual. I don't know about you but I feel we have all grown closer to each other as a result of the prayer network that has bonded us together. We have a deeper sense that what happens to one, happens to all. We are more capable of compassion and empathy, or at least, we have had the opportunity to discover these things more within ourselves and to express them outwardly towards others. We have all been forced to consider what really, lastingly matters to us in this life and have been challenged to devote our lives more specifically to those ends. We have been made aware of what we need in order to feel alive and whole and we have also clearly seen what isn't important at all. Our eyes have been opened and we have had the opportunity to be redirected and renewed. You and I stand like Lazarus at the mouth of His cave, being called back from the shadowlands to walk again the paths of this world, to interact post-lockdown with others, to re-inhabit our communities and meet and greet others who have also been shielding, sheltering and some of us must learn again the intricate dance of social interaction. But we will do so reacquainted with our deeper selves, realigned to our essential relationship with saving truths. In some sense any emergence from this pandemic is a bonus, an extension of life and a privilege. Our bodies have been spared, for a while longer at least, our souls have been given the opportunity to to refreshed and renewed. It is up to us now to prayerfully consider and reflect on what the priorities are for our ongoing lives. I asked you some time ago for your gratitudes and thanksgivings for all that had inspired you throughout recent months, your responses were legion and marvellous. Although I know any emergence from the acute time of this pandemic may be temporary until a vaccine can be found and seen to be effective, may I ask you for one thing more? What one thing, or possibly more, have you realised in a new way about the gift, opportunity and privilege of being alive which you now wish to take with you into your future? What realisation has kept you positive, hopeful and resilient? What light has kept you warm and directed your steps which can now act as a lantern into whatever darkness the future might hold? What have you realised of life, of God, of yourselves that is now core to who you are and how you wish to spend your lives? What one realisation do you wish to recommit yourself to as we walk on into God's future for us? Please email me within the next week or so, that I may compile and offer back to you a supplement to our Anthem of Gratitude which can act as a Declaration of Commitment which can inspire and direct us as we travel on, encouraging each other and taking strength from the Holy Spirit. As this period in our shared lives moves toward a different stage, I believe we need to do three key things: * Grieve for those who have died. * Give thanks for those who have served and in some cases, saved us. * Recommit ourselves to our fellow human beings in the cause of peace, equality, harmony, justice, opportunity and each other's wellbeing and happiness. As people created and loved by God, with our bodies, with our minds, with our souls, with our spirits, let us let us rededicate the rest of our lives to the things which lastingly matter, which give dignity and purpose to our existences and in so doing, let each and every one of us contribute to the rebuilding, recovery and regeneration of our society, community and world. With blessings and best wishes, Jeff
Please join us on Sunday for our Zoom Service which will be our HARVEST THANKSGIVING SERVICE. Details of how to donate to the Harvest Collection are on the weekly Parish Notices newsletter - please give as generously as you can.Click here to read the weekly Parish Notices
Our Readings will be:
Psalm 65 & Matthew Chapter 13 verses 1-9.
Collect For Harvest Thanksgiving:
You made the goodness of the land,
The riches of the sea and the
Rhythm of the seasons:
As we thank you for the harvest
We ask that you may inspire us to
Cherish and respect
All that we have been entrusted with,
This planet and one another,
That we may use the gifts of your creation wisely
For the relief of those in need
And for our own wellbeing.
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.
Zoom Service - every Sunday, 9.30am
There are three main ways to join the service: 1.click on this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 2. Go to zoom.us (or use the Zoom app) and enter the following Webinar ID: 856 8533 9742 3. If you want to join by telephone dial any of these numbers: 0203 481 5237 or 0203 481 5240 or 0131 460 1196 or 0203 051 2874 and then type in this Webinar ID when prompted: 856 8533 9742
These details are the same every week!