Pastoral Letter 10 28th June

PASTORAL LETTER 10                                     28th June

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” Hebrews 13:8

Have you ever wondered why the moment that you’re experiencing now is called “the present?” The answer is that this is what it is: each moment of our lives is a present, a gift, from God. And God wants us to live our lives to the full.

It is important that we remember this as we begin to ease the restrictions on our lives brought on by the Coronavirus and re-adjust to a more normal life. For many of us this will not be an easy task because inevitably there is a fear of emerging into the light of day. We are right to be cautious because the virus has certainly not disappeared and we need to exercise sensible precautions in terms of hygiene and distancing. As we begin to meet again at The Mission for collective worship, there is no doubt that it will feel different and odd. Singing, sharing refreshments, sitting adjacent to each other, no hymn books, not being able to hug or even shake hands, will all seem strange especially at The Mission where close fellowship is central to the life of the Church. The Mission is a worshipping community but also a very loving and close-knit community and so these restrictions will feel strange and perhaps alien. God does want us to live freely but He also wants us to act sensibly and the current restrictions are for the health and well being of all of us. It is all part of loving our neighbour as ourselves. At The Mission we shall certainly attempt to make everyone feel as safe and secure as we possibly can. Yes, it is a risk, but there is risk in most things even under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, God certainly does not want us to live in a constant state of fear. So often, the first words that Jesus spoke to His disciples were “Peace be with you and fear not.” This is what He is saying right now to each one of us. God’s love for us as individuals will never cease and nothing and no one will ever deny us His love. God’s Truth will never change and His presence will never depart from us. God’s power source, The Holy Spirit, will always be available to us giving us strength and courage and enabling us to do things that we could never do in our own strength alone. St Paul summed it up when he said that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” and that, “love takes away all fear.”

It is a time not just to be cautious but “bravely cautious” in the strength that God alone supplies. We live bravely in the present and even if the worst happens (which I’m sure it won’t) then, even that, for us as Christians, is not a defeat but a welcoming into our Heavenly Home: the one that Jesus Himself has gone to prepare for us. (John 14) I know it’s far easier said than done and all us inevitably, and rightly, cling to life but how can it be a defeat when we see the gates of Heaven open before us and an eternity of love and bliss in our Father’s house. I really thank God that over these last few months, none of our fellowship have succumbed to the virus and I really look forward to sharing that praise and thanksgiving with all of you, face to face.

I know that much of our collective life will be on hold for a while (perhaps quite a long while) but let’s remind ourselves of why we meet in Church and the main reason is to worship, praise and seek God’s face and His purpose for our lives. We do not go primarily for ourselves but for Him.

To put it simply… will be so good to see you all and to hear you all even if it is from several feet away. And, by the way, you’ll see me ascend once again into the pulpit! I’ve never had anything against using the pulpit but I do feel closer to you when I’m grounded! But, as things are, I’ll go back up on high not because I’m trying to escape but because it’s easier to communicate from there if folks are spread out and it also provides more space at ground level!

And so, as we begin to meet and slowly but surely, put things back together let’s do several things: the first is, whatever the circumstances, let us enjoy the day and the days that God has given us. As King Solomon said in the Old Testament “to enjoy your work and your lot in life is a gift from God.” Don’t let today slip away by looking ahead to tomorrow. The second thing is that nothing earthly ever remains the same and that all things will pass. The situation in which we find ourselves at the moment is definitely not for all time. Things will change and, by God’s grace, change for the better. There’s always a danger of looking back at the past and thinking that nothing in the future will ever compare. But it really is a wrong comparison because the past is the past and can never be repeated. This is good news for those with difficult pasts but often very painful for those blessed with loving and happy pasts. Living in the past is certainly a temptation and one that I know very well. But the danger is that we let today slip away because we choose to remain in the past. God doesn’t want us to be restrained in this way and in order to live more freely He wants us, whilst being thankful for days gone by, to live fully in the now and to create a happy future. The future will be different but it need not be inferior. It is important to remind ourselves of this because part of the challenge we face with Coronavirus is to forge a new future and a new way of living and worshipping.

It is a challenge and one that I wish we didn’t have to face but the truth is that we’re here where we are and, with God’s help and guidance, we can go forward into a brighter future and a better tomorrow. One of my favourite verses is that “all things work for the good for those who put their trust in Christ Jesus” and so with this hope and this promise let’s go forward together.

I look forward to seeing you again if you’re able to join us for worship over the coming weeks. If that’s a step which you feel you can’t take at the moment, then that’s absolutely fine. I’ll stay in touch, of course, and come whenever you feel able. One of the things that will never change at The Mission is the warm and genuine welcome that everyone receives.

With love and blessings from Peter

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