Pastoral Letter - 22nd October
(Though perhaps it should read "Dear Friend," nowadays, as I don’t know how many still read this!)
"Do you believe in God?" like you, I have been frequently asked over the years. But it’s not just "belief" that we do is it? It’s something far more than merely believing. I can "believe" in many things, without that demanding anything of me, for example that the planet earth is spinning in space, that the sun will rise tomorrow, that Elizabeth the First really existed. Humanity’s experience of God does not stop at just believing, there has to be something more. It is not intellectual assent which is asked of us, but something far more profound and far reaching.
Recently Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace because of "their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace." In an interview with the media, on hearing that she had been awarded this prestigious prize in acknowledgement of her fearless stance against the corruption of power in her home country of the Philippines, Maria Ressa strikingly said in an interview I saw broadcast on the BBC news, "When you don’t have facts, you don’t have truth, you don’t have trust. Trust is what holds us together to be able to solve the complex problems our world is facing today." Trust.
I see parents dropping off their children at school in the morning, not just trusting that they will be given a good education, but more importantly, trusting that they would be kept safe all day until they are collected in the afternoon. When we get on a train, bus or plane, we trust that whoever is driving steering, flying, knows what they are doing and is competent to do so. When we vote in an election, we trust that there won’t be any cheating, that our vote will be counted and that our place in the hard won democratic system of which we are part, will be respected. When we go to the Vets, unsure of what’s wrong with our little darling, we have to trust the competence of the Vet. When you or I go to the Doctors, we have to trust their abilities in diagnosis, in the efficacy of the tests, in the advice which we are given, in the tablets or treatment which is prescribed, that it may do more good than harm. When we walk on the streets, we are trusting motorists not to stray from the road and mount the pavement and knock us over, or go through red lights when we are crossing the road. When you or I sit in a barber or hairdressers chair, we are trusting that they won’t shave our heads entirely, then laughingly say, "Oh, I have always wanted to do that. Have a nice day!" Trust.
Belief can be just a nominal nod toward a concept we can agree with, trust calls upon something far more visceral and vital within us. When a young child had to jump from a balcony of a first floor flat which was on fire and the neighbour on the ground below shouted, "Jump, I’ll catch you!" the child had to trust, indeed entrust their safety, wellbeing and survival to that person. In our lives too sometimes we have to take the step of trusting someone, almost in blind faith, in circumstances of darkness. In marriage too, there is a huge element of trust in what is going on as they commit their whole life to the other’s wellbeing, fulfilment and happiness, trusting in the mutual understanding and intention of the moment and agreement. So too is it in our relationship with God. It is not sufficient to just believe in Him, what we are called to do is to trust in Him, entrust ourselves to Him completely, as much as an acrobat has to trust their fellow acrobat to catch them when they jump mid air at the top of the circus tent. Trust. So much of our life depends upon it. That is partly why in the Baptism service the priest asks not "Do you believe in God?" but rather, "Do you believe and trust............?" And if trust is the measure of what truly characterizes our relationship with God, how far do you, how far do I, really trust Him? Perhaps we don’t really know the answer to that until we are faced with some challenging or even catastrophic event, when all else has failed or let us down, when we are floundering in the unknown and uncontrollable seas of possibility and chance, when fear is biting at our heels like an angry terrier, when there is no light, no warmth, no sense of direction or even gravity. There it is, then it is that we know if we believe and in believing whether we trust, truly entrust ourselves to the provision and protection of God. There in the raw reality of vulnerability, that which is deepest within us is exposed and we utter a primal cry which becomes our most profound prayer: "Lord, if you are there, if you really exists, help me!"
So often people have come to faith when their trust in false gods have been seen for the mirages they undoubtedly are and only in the desert of the soul, where no false god dares to be, where all seems silent, we hear the only voice we need to hear. That desert, that wilderness, was once inhabited by Jesus, perhaps significantly immediately after He had Himself been Baptised in the river Jordan, entrusting Himself entirely to His Father’s love. There, in the savage reality of where temptation prowled, He overcame distrust by trust and there too when we inhabit those spaces of aching fear, loneliness and temptation, we can draw strength and inspiration from the fact that His presence still lingers there, can be experienced there, to entrust our deepest selves to Him there.
That for me is one of the most wonderful things about the Christian Scriptures for which we will be giving especial thanks this coming weekend, on Bible Sunday: that they show us a landscape where Christ once walked and where He walks beside us still. For the landscape in which He walked and the landscape which we inhabit are one and the same emotional, relational, experiential landscape. Even in Gethsemane, where He fears what is to come and His sense of His Father has diminished and dimmed; even on the cross where He feels that He has failed, that He has been abandoned by those He thought believed in Him, there too He entrusted His spirit to His Father, "Into Thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit." (Psalm 31 v 5)
So too for us, when in wilderness, when in conflict or temptation, when we feel frightened, when we feel that we have failed, when we are breathing our last, let us then remember what happened to Him when He entrusted Himself to His Father’s unquenchable love, He experienced life, hope, resurrection. And if that was true for Him, it can also be true for you and me. The Holy Spirit, who brought Jesus to life beyond the crucifixion is the same Spirit you and I can know in our own lives and we too are called to trust in Him.
Maria Ressa is right: trust is what binds us together, with each other, but also with God. It is the way in which we can begin to make sense of our world as we contemplate our part in making it a more compassionate and creative, just and fair, full and fulfilling experience for ourselves and for others. Without trust there can be no real friendship, without trust there can be no relationships of love, without trust there can be no cohesive sense of community or a properly functioning society, without trust there can be no real depth or experience of faith.
Let each of us, at the heart of who we are, where we are most aching and asking, take that crucial step of not just believing but trusting in God and entrust ourselves wholly to Him. For we are assured in the scriptures that "underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33 v 27) Arms which long to hold, reassure, console, embrace, enfold and empower. Arms which are forever reaching out to the humanity of God’s making, redeeming and loving.
With blessings and best wishes
WELCOME to our worship at St Mary’s on this, BIBLE SUNDAY, as we worship in church and on Zoom. Today 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 5 verses 36b-end. Today’s Collect, for BIBLE SUNDAY Blessed Lord, Who caused all Holy Scriptures To be written for our learning: Help us so to hear them, To read, mark, learn and inwardly to digest them, That, through patience and the comfort of your holy word We may embrace and forever hold fast The hope of eternal life, Which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN We will also be remembering in our prayers of intercession the people whose names you can find by following this link to our website "Services" page https://www.stmarytwick.org.uk/services and clicking on the button for 'Our Current Intercessions List'.
The hymns we shall be singing at our Eucharist today are: 514, 490 and 4.
No booking is necessary for the 9.30am church service. Please use the hand sanitizer provided before entering the church. We would ask that you place your collection envelope in the basket as you enter the church which will be brought up to the altar at the Offertory (or use the contactless/tap payment card facility close by). We would strongly recommend the wearing of facemasks throught the service for all other than those exempted from doing so on medical or age grounds. Please do not come to the church if you are displaying any Covid symptoms and please seriously consider whether it is wise to attend if you have cold or ‘flu symptoms, in fairness to others. Communion will be offered in the form of the consecrated host, which you may receive in your hands and which we would ask you to consume immediately. You are welcome to join us in the Parish Hall for refreshments after the service.
5pm Zoom Service
We very much hope that those of you who are not able to join us in church for our service, join us online instead. This will take the same form which we have used from last April. Please have a candle, matches, bread and wine to hand. Click Here to download the Order of Service
There are three main ways to join the Zoom 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
(Please note that these details are the same every week)
10am-11am Wednesday. The church will be open for 'Holy Hour' on Wednesdays between 10 and 11am incorporating private prayer and celebration. If you would like to know more about the ongoing life of St Mary's and its activities , please see our website: www.stmarytwick.org.uk