Pastoral Letter 9 21st June

PASTORAL LETTER 9

PHIL 4: 6 “Be careful for nothing: but in everything with prayer and supplication and in thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I was speaking with someone the other day who has had several medical problems during the Coronavirus Pandemic. It has undoubtedly been a challenging time, but it has been made much more bearable through the kindness and support shown by family, friends and neighbours. Many people who previously hardly knew their neighbours, are now on first name terms. Another person described how this period has brought communities closer together and people now speak to and acknowledge others whom they meet on the street. It is often adversity that brings us closer together, and especially when the whole nation is involved. This is one of the positive results of this crisis in our national life and one that we hope and pray will be maintained long after the crisis has passed.

It is vulnerability that draws us closer because we all recognise it in each other, and fewer people are hiding their weaknesses and dependency on one another. It is our shared humanity that brings us comfort and strength and reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters and, as such, we have one Heavenly Father. One of the greatest strengths that I have had in ministry is my vulnerability and weakness which I have never sought to hide. It is not that people expect you to have all the answers (because they already know you haven’t) nor that they expect invincible strength: neither of these, but they do look for sincerity and truth and part of that truth is that we share the same battered and weather-beaten boat! This involves recognising your faults and failings and, when needed, a willingness to say sorry.

There is also a great need for more thanksgiving and being grateful for the blessings that we have. I know that, In my case, recent events have caused me to be far more grateful for the good things in my life rather than moaning about the things that I don’t have and, in all probability, were never meant to have. I think that some of this is due to the fact that the pace of life has slowed down considerably and therefore I have more time to recollect. The birds, for instance, are singing just as sweetly as ever: it is just that I never previously heard them for chasing about! And the best thing is not having to feel guilty about what I am not doing because no one expects me to do it. It’s no wonder that St Paul talks about “thanksgiving” as being a vital part of obtaining God’s peace. “Pray with thanksgiving” says St Paul.

Many people ask, “what will life be like after Coronavirus?” The answer is that no one really knows but certainly one beneficial result would be a greater sense of thankfulness for all that we do have and which, sadly, we so often take for granted and also more sensitivity towards the needs of others. Ironically, social distancing may lead to us becoming closer as a nation.

St Paul writes that we can have a peace that passes human understanding. I must admit that I don’t often have such peace and that it certainly passes my understanding! One of the ways is thankfulness but another is supplication. There’s been a lot of discussion lately, as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, about the appropriateness of “bending the knee” as a mark of respect. Contrary to what Dominic Raab said recently, it didn’t originate with “Game of Thrones” but with the civil rights crusader, Martin Luther King, who used it not only to express opposition and protest but also to humble himself before Almighty God. Our Foreign Secretary said that he had only “bent his knee” twice: to The Queen and to his wife when he proposed to her. There is, however, a third way, and that is to honour the majesty and greatness of God. This is something that our Roman Catholic brethren have been doing for many years when they “genuflect” before the altar in Church. I have to say that “bending the knee” isn’t easy for me nowadays because of arthritis in my knees but, whether we physically do it or not, the real point is to humble ourselves before God and to remind ourselves of our ultimate reliance on Him: on his power, love and mercy. The Coronavirus has demonstrated, once again, that we can’t control everything and that we’re not as clever as we often like to think we are. And so, I pray, that another result of this crisis, is that we have greater humility and that we approach the Throne of Grace with real supplication and placing our ultimate trust in God alone.

Finally, St Paul prays that God’s peace will come to fill both our hearts and our minds. I do not know about you, but my heart and mind are so often out of step with each other! My heart tells me that God is real, that He loves me, that He has my best interests at heart whatever happens, but then my mind tells me that God only helps those who help themselves! Sadly, my mind often wins the debate and so I end up by being selfish. My mother often excused people’s bad behaviour by saying “oh well, but his heart’s in the right place!” I can only hope that God takes the same line because so often my heart tells me one thing but my actions betray me.

 We all need God’s peace to fill both our hearts and our minds through thankfulness and humility. It is a tall order but let us remind ourselves that all things are possible with God. In the meantime, let us also remind ourselves that God’s love for us covers a multitude of sins and that no one understands us and loves us, more than Him. Nowadays it seems that the wearing of face masks is becoming more and more compulsory. You cannot get on a bus or board a train without wearing a mask. Well, I have it on good authority, that there are no face masks in Heaven! God can see right through our masks: He sees the real you and the real me: and you know what? He sees that we all need improvement but He loves and accepts us just as we are in the knowledge that one day we shall become all that we were ever meant to be and that finally we shall have that peace which passes all understanding. Amen

I hope and pray that you’re all keeping safe and well especially as we begin to take our first tentative steps beyond our front doors. I’m sure that there are better days ahead and that, come what may, God and His love will always be there for us.

With love and blessings to everyone of you from Peter

 


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