Pastoral Letter - 25th April
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.
It may be good to read Luke Chapter 24 verses 13-35 before reading this letter..............
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.