Pastoral Letter - 1st October
For weeks, or rather months now, I have been writing letters to the parishioners of St Mary’s Twickenham and indeed to anyone else who is kind enough to read them. I have just realised that, in all those letters, I have seldom written to you! You know that is not because I do not address you every day, indeed several times each day, though that doesn’t usually take the form of a letter. But having written to parishioners and even Joe Biden and Tom Moore recently, I thought I would send this letter to you.
There was a line in last Sunday’s gospel passage which really got me thinking. The line kept playing in my mind and I found myself reflecting on it for ages. It`s something one of your disciples, Mark, wrote in his gospel, Chapter 9 at the end of verse 50, "Live in peace with one another." I suppose that’s the heart of it isn’t it, peace? I remember that when you rose from the dead, when you appeared to your friends in the upper room where they had locked themselves in, in fear, that was the first thing you said to them, "Peace be with you." (John Ch 20, verse 19)
During these last 18 months, that peace has not been something many of us have found it easy to experience. Fear, anxiety, frustration, concern, yes, but seldom peace. So I thought I would write to you about it, because living in peace with one another, peace with ourselves and peace with you really matters doesn’t it? It’s what you seem most to wish us to know.
Our lives are sometimes so fragile, so often we struggle to survive, to keep going, to keep afloat, even to keep faith in you. Often life seems dark, oppressive, we cannot see far, we cannot easily feel your presence, we doubt that you are there, that you are real, and that if you are, that you can care for each one of us personally. It is beyond our comprehension and imagining.
So much of life seems random, dangerous, vulnerable. What we most love, rely on and cherish in life can so easily be taken away from us in but a moment, abandoning us to the darkness, filling us with fear. But we hear of times in the scriptures, and some of us have experienced this too for ourselves, when it is as if the veil is lifted, the light comes on, the cacophony is silenced, doubt is quenched, questions are answered in a moment of dazzling revelation and liberating truth. It is as though a hand of blessing is laid reassuringly upon our shoulder, a warmth embraces us in the cold darkness, and a calm comes upon the tumult within, as surely as when you stilled the storm upon the lake. We long for such moments of reassurance, but they are so rare, mere pin pricks of light in an otherwise darkling world. Yet sometimes such moments are enough, enough to sustain us to the next moment of encouragement.
Of course we are all too well aware what not "living in peace with one another" brings, when we allow anger to animate us, when we are responsible for another’s fall from grace, when some aspect of our behaviour leads us away from where you would have us be, from being the person you have created us to be. And I should think all of us without exception are guilty of such things, "we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us"(1 John Ch 1 v 8) if we pretend it is not so. But Lord, you know all too well, fully and completely, what it is to be human, what it is to be frail, what it is to be tempted, and it is because you know what these human feelings and realities are all about that we know that we can be completely honest with you, that you would understand and understanding, forgive and forgiving, can free us from these things when we turn to you and allow you to know the undisguised truth of who we are.
And that we would have you do now, Lord. If there is any way of wickedness within us, if there are sins not repented of, anger unacknowledged, bad choices that need to be recognised for what they essentially were, gossip colluded with and added to when we were tempted, if there is any stain upon us at all, good Lord, deliver us. See if there is any way of wickedness within us, help us see these things for what they truly are and bathe us in the baptism of absolution, that we may enjoy peace with you. Help us not to hold onto any sin, or guilt, resentment or burden, that leads not to peace. Enable us through your grace to entrust ourselves completely to you. We do not wish to pretend in any way, this moment is too significant, our salvation may depend upon it.
Please Lord, as once you looked into the eyes, into the lives of people compromised as we are, yet believed in them, in who they could be through love, through grace, through forgiveness, through your believing in them, so too look into the reality of our past, who we have been, and Lord, forgive. Forgive the sins we have chosen to commit, forgive us for building our lives on foundations other than of you and create us anew in your image.
When you walked into that upper room in resurrection power, you breathed on the disciples who had failed you, betrayed you, deserted you, forgiving them, freeing them and offering them your peace. So now, in resurrection power, having conquered all sin upon the cross, reach out into the reality of who we are with your forgiveness, acceptance, compassion. Believe in us, help us to believe in ourselves. Love us, help us to love ourselves. Forgive us, help us to forgive ourselves.
All else is false within our lives, only who we are in relation to you really matters. See us for who we are. Love us for who we are. Help us to see ourselves as we truly are, love ourselves for the person you have created us to be. And, having met with your understanding, with your acceptance, with your forgiveness, with your love, enable us to look at others in such a way and be more understanding, accepting, forgiving and loving toward them, withholding nothing. For in so doing so we will indeed do, as Mark incites us to do, "live in peace with one another."
Please Lord, help us. In the power of your holy name l ask this.
We welcome you to our worship at St Mary’s on this our Dedication Sunday, after Trinity, whether you are joining us in church or on Zoom.
At both the 9.30am Eucharist in church and the 5pm Zoom service online, we shall be reflecting on the Gospel passage, which this week is John Chapter 10 verses 22-29.
Collect for Dedication Sunday: Almighty and eternal God, To whose glory we celebrate the dedication of this house of prayer: We praise you for the many blessings You have given to those who worship you here And we pray that all who seek you in this place may find you And, being filled with the Holy Spirit, May become living temples, acceptable to you. 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
For full details of our Services and how to join us, follow this link to our website "Services" page:
https://www.stmarytwick.org.uk/services - the names of those we shall be remembering in our prayers can be seen by clicking on the button for 'Our Current Intercessions List'.