Pastoral Letter - 7th August
Yesterday was the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Matthew Chapter 16 verses 13-23.
The Collect: Father in Heaven, Whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured Before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, And spoke of the exodus He would accomplish at Jerusalem: Give us strength so to hear His voice and bear our sufferings That in the world to come we may see Him as He truly is, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
It was something said just at the end of my visit which shed light on the whole of the visit, allowing me to see it from a different perspective. It was, on one level, just an ordinary visit and yet also something strangely more. "Come for tea," the invitation had said. Lovely! The caravan was a little difficult to find, which ultimately meant it was in a discreet and hidden place, so much the better. "When you find the right turning, come through the gate, then............ " the directions went on........."at the end of the valley turn right and you will find us there, just thirty feet or so from the cliff edge!" It was idyllic. The sparkling waves winking way below, the freshness of the air all around, the scent of newly baked scones, the delicious tangy sweetness of the Whortleberry Jam. Sitting, chatting, in the open air, observing social distancing, trying to connect again and make up for months of less relaxed interaction. Then after tea, one of my hosts suggested a walk along the cliff top, exactly what I had hoped for. So we set off, springy turf paving the way. "In another ten minutes there will be an amazing view," I was promised, though all around was breathtaking scenery, vast expanses of languid landscape, bright beauty shining everywhere. A slight breeze stroking the grasses in the fields, a blue sky clear of clouds overhead, a deeper blue sea down below that looked more Mediterranean than West Country, warmth relaxing our bodies and a vitality in the air which made one feel more vividly alive. Eventually a bench came into view and there before us was the view in the photo above. It was like seeing things from the air, perhaps even from the vantage point of Heaven itself. And there we sat, contentedly, and chatted. Building bridges over the intervening years since our previous meeting, speaking of people we have in common, of life since we last met up, making connections, remarking at co-incidences, deepening the bonds, becoming animated and warming once again to our friendship. And, following the foundations being laid, the deeper things were then made mention of, things less easily voiced save in the knowledge that one is accepted, understood. The core things, of life, of love, of faith, of friendship. It was something said at the end of my visit which shed light on the whole of the visit, allowing me to see it from a different perspective, and that was this remark, "My mother used to say that it is not just in the life to come that God prepares a place for us. He also prepares places for us here too, in this life." All down the centuries some custodians of the Christian faith have done disservice to the people of God when encouraging them not to take appropriate pleasure in this life, but to see it as a struggle, a time of pain and sacrifice, suggesting that it is only in the life to come that true joy will be found. Of course some part of this is true and is expressed in the Collect above, but there is an accompanying truth too. Christ in His life allowed others to know in the here and now that there are moments of exquisite joy and revelation, perhaps not as a continuous reality, but as glimpses which like manifestations of light in the darkness, allow us to find our way forward. Moments of wonder and affirmation where the life of this world and the life of the world to come meet, blend, infuse, almost become as one, as in the account of the Transfiguration in the gospel passage cited above. Here on the mountain top, Jesus' companions in this life are joined by His companions in the life of the Kingdom, the landscape of this world is ignited by the light of the spirit realm. Time and eternity fuse, the veil becomes so thin it is transparent and the air they breathe seems to be the very breath of Heaven. Eyes are opened to a greater reality, a sense that life is not a random series of unconnected events we have to make sense of and negotiate our way through, but life as having a divine purpose and providential perspective as we sense the currents of the Spirit all around, prompting us on our journey forward into God's will for our lives. In Christ, time as experienced here, and life as known in His Heavenly Kingdom meet. It's what we celebrate and express in the Eucharist and also what we sometimes know in times of prayer. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All time belongs to me and all ages." And it behoves us to make time and space in our busy, preoccupied existences to be present to His presence, so as to be refreshed in this awareness and renewed in our resolve to live this life from the perspective of eternity. Just in the same way as Jesus called His closest disciples apart, to walk with Him and witness Him transfigured, so too we sometimes need to leave the things which hold us back, hold us down, and freely enter a different landscape where our souls can breathe. In one sense we all live in caravans, oops, "mobile homes," like the one I had tea outside on the cliff top. In this life we are not called to settle for long, we are always on the move, the Bible calls us a pilgrim people, yet like any traveller, we are also grateful for the moments of blessed rooting and resting, hopefully near clear sharp waters of a spring, where we can find refreshment. But that refreshment is to resource us for the journey, our own unique journey through this life, to encounter new people on the way, to be open to fresh opportunities to serve and alive to times to witness to the one who shares with us His gift of life. For the last months many of us have been unable to travel anywhere, unable in many cases to see anyone for anything other than a short visit, and that outdoors. We have lived as monks, nuns, sometimes in small communities, oftentimes alone. We have spent our time perhaps anxiously at first, then frustratedly. Waiting, watching, longing, hoping. And I have been thinking recently of a significant aspect of the story of Jesus. Any significant change of direction in Jesus' life, any shift to a more intense period of healing, teaching, witnessing, was always preceded by a time of apparent inactivity. His forty days in the wilderness, His time on mountain top or hill top before the dawn, basking in His Father's presence, always came before the great moments in His life and ministry. He sought to be present to, and interact with, not just the realities of this world, but also the realities of the other realm, the better to transform, transfigure the broken, incomplete, asking lives He encountered here, with the energy and life of Heaven. And you and I, as we are invited to be alert and aware of the things of the Spirit and not just the things of this world; as we pray for guidance as to the right paths to take, the right things to say, the right job to do, the right people to reach out to, we too need to allow our spirit to deepen and develop within us, though joining Jesus on such hill tops as the one where He was transfigured, there to acquaint ourselves and be drawn into a deeper sense of the energy of love which is the very life of Heaven, the better to influence and inspire us for more creative and constructive, fulfilling and fruitful lives. For it is true: He does not only promise to prepare a place for us in Heaven, He also prepares places for us in the here and now where we can experience Him and serve Him. Sometimes we find such places seemingly at random, other times in more surer and more consciously decided ways, as though our souls have instincts and a sense of direction, which we willingly obey. But always, He directs us forward, as pilgrims, as those trusting, entrusting ourselves to His providential care. So as we take our stumbling steps toward the future; as we negotiate the complexities of Covid in the context of a semi relaxed lockdown; as we arrange to see friends and family again; as we prepare to return to our offices, schools, colleges; as we dare to step out and greet whatever may come our way, let us pray that these last months may have developed a more acute sense of where our feet should take us. I often think of Lazarus, re-emerging into the world from his cave, stepping out toward a new life. He too perhaps consciously chose to live in a different way, no longer wasting time or energy on unimportant mundanities, but investing himself solely in those things which served and enhanced his sense of the sacred gift of life, cherishing the relationships that kept his soul warm and his spirit raised. Many of us have said in recent weeks that we hope we take some of the deep realisations we have had over the lockdown, into the coming years, embedding them into our souls, to better embrace life and live it with a renewed sense of its sacred value and as a God given gift. As you and I move forward into whatever future awaits, let us all pledge ourselves to encourage one another not to forget what has warmed our hearts and inspired our souls since mid March: the things, the people, the experiences, the realisations we have previously expressed our gratitude for, allowing them to be as a compass within us, directing us on, to live in alignment with God's plan and purpose for our lives and live life as a celebration of the gift which life is, casting aside all shadows which seek to quench the light, allowing that light to shine in us and through us, as love to all around. May the Transfigured Christ prepare the places He would have us go and may His Spirit direct us there to know Him, serve Him and celebrate Him. This let us ask and pray in the power of His name. Amen. With blessings, continuing prayers and all good wishes, Jeff
ST MARY'S SCHOOL
Our school is one of the most important things within our community, where the children born to us are nurtured and prepared for full and fulfilling lives. One of the ways in which we, as members of the wider community, can serve the school is by becoming a member of the Governing Body.
We currently have two vacancies pending, which we are looking to fill by the Autumn. The two positions falling vacant are for "Foundation Governors." This relates to the school being a "Christian foundation" and thus we are looking for Governors who see this as a way of expressing their Christian faith, which hopefully will inform and inspire their work as Governor.
If you would like to look at the St Mary's School website to find out more about the school and then to talk further about what is involved in being a Governor, do please get in touch with me and I will direct you to speak with one of my fellow Governors. Please think carefully as to whether God is asking you to contribute to our community in this way. More information is freely available on request. Thanks and good wishes.
ZOOM SERVICE: 9.30am Sunday 9th August. Please join us for our service on Zoom this Sunday, all are welcome!
Our readings will be: Romans Chapter 8 verses 31-39 and Luke Chapter 12 verses 22-34.
Our Collect is: Almighty God, Who sent your Holy Spirit To be the life and light of your Church, Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, That we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit In love and joy and peace; 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.