Pastoral Letter 14th February

THE MISSION: PASTORAL LETTER 14th FEBRUARY

This week’s letter begins on a very sad note as our dear dear friend, Betty, passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning. She died very peacefully, at home, with Gill by her side, and our loving thoughts and prayers are very much with Gill. Betty’s health had been declining steadily for some time and she was ready to meet with her Lord, to rest at peace, and to be re-united with Ralph. For all of us at The Mission and far beyond it is a heavy loss for Betty has loved and served The Lord since childhood through her God-given gift of music and the tireless work she, and Ralph, accomplished through Campaigners and a whole host of other ways in which she has helped shape our lives, both young and old, with her faithfulness, humour, humility, gentleness, incredible generosity, and, above all, love. Betty was a supreme example of what it means to be a Christian both in word and deed and I thank God, personally, for the way in which she has touched my life. She will never be forgotten and always remembered with so much thankfulness and love and, for many, such loving memories will take them back to their earlier years and childhood. A lifetime of service and now an eternity of peace in God’s nearer presence, enfolded in His loving arms, worshipping and singing His praises in the joyous company of Heaven. As one of her favourite hymns puts it “This is my story: This is my song: praising my Saviour all the day long.” “Dear Betty, rest in peace dear friend, and rise with Christ to glory and life everlasting. Amen.” 

The hymn, of course, is “Blessed Assurance: Jesus is Mine” and it’s a wonderful hymn for us all to be reminded of especially at a difficult time such as the one we’re currently passing through. And I say “passing through” because there will be an end to this pandemic, and we will get through it. It may take a time, things usually do, but we will get through it and this time of restriction and isolation will end. It will not last forever even though it may feel like it for nothing in this world will last forever. Heaven alone suffices because only in Heaven will things be permanent and only in Heaven will things and people never suffer decay or death. St Paul wrote in Romans 8 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” We do indeed have a permanent home in glory land which is very different from “never never land” for the latter seeks to hold back time here on earth, and to “stop the clock” on all things changing: to cling to the past and even try to re-create it. It takes me quite an effort to write these things because I’m a person who is so tempted to yearn for a past: a past of my imaginings which inevitably sees things better than they actually were. To go back to West Yorkshire and re-trace my footsteps. But the trouble is, I’m not that person anymore and, anyway, the footsteps only point in one direction. Have you ever tried to make your foot fit into old footprints? It can’t be done because the toe and heel no longer fit!! So many of us try and every one of us fail. We move forward to a new reality and, for us as Christians, it is a reality for which Jesus has both won for us and prepared for us. Jesus said (John 14) “I am going to prepare a place for you.” Jesus will meet you at the entrance: He has met with Betty and He will meet with you. 

This is our “Blessed Assurance”, and it is one that is granted to us through faith: faith in even the most trying and difficult circumstances. Please note that it is “Blessed Assurance” and not “Blessed Insurance.” Do you remember the old Insurance Man coming to the door every week for his two and six pence? The man from The Pru!! It might well have been The Man from The Moon as far as I was concerned because I could never understand why we gave him money when he never gave us anything in return except a tick in a scruffy old Prudential Book!! Surely, we’re not going to equate Jesus with the old Prudential Man! No, of course not, because faith is about Assurance and not Insurance: it’s not an indemnity against all life’s ills including times like the one we’re travelling through at the moment or even physical decline and death, but an Assurance in that beyond these things there is a new and better world: a world in which there are no more tears, no more fears, no more goodbyes and no more longings for things that we could never attain ourselves. 

“Blessed Assurance: Jesus is mine. O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God born of His Spirit: washed in His blood. 

2/ Perfect submission, perfect delight: visions of rapture, burst on my sight: 

Angels descending, bring from above: echoes of mercy, whispers of love. 

3/ Perfect submission, all is at rest. I in my Saviour, are happy and blest: watching and waiting looking above: filled with His goodness: lost in His love.”

There are so many sad people right now who have lost a loved one: we are sad having lost Betty. It’s both natural and right to be sad because, for us as human beings with such limited eyesight, it’s all we’ve ever known and all that we can imagine. God knows this and He’s with us throughout this sadness and all the restrictions and isolation that we’re enduring. He’s right with you: feel Him and know His love for you. But, at the same time, be thankful that God has given us a glimpse into His everlasting Kingdom and all that is yet to be: a love without end and a life that is everlasting. It makes me so thankful that God has given us the eyes to see and the heart to pursue Him: the faith on which our lives are built especially when I think of all the thousands who have no faith, who don’t know Jesus as their Saviour or God as their loving Heavenly Father. Let us pray for them that, through this difficult and testing time, they may be encouraged to seek The Lord for themselves and that we, as their brothers and sisters, will be ready to receive them when they come. God so often builds triumphs out of tragedies: so, let us pray that they may be given the hope that is ours and that this land, this world, will see a great Revival of faith and turning to God. May we, at Bromwich Road Mission, have the privilege of playing our own part in this great transformation. 

Betty would always remind us that “we’re in The Lord’s hands” and now she’s held in those loving hands. We thank God for it as we say thank you for all the joy shared and all the love given and look ahead to our great re-union in Heaven for no hands could love us more or serve us better.

Always in my thoughts and prayers. Love and Blessings from Peter.

 


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