Letter to parishioners, 13 May 2022

Friday, 13 May 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our readings this Sunday speak to many issues we encounter in our everyday lives. Many of those issues we dismiss as being ‘political correctness gone mad’. We belittle their importance and we carry on along our own self-serving paths from birth to death. Our readings this Sunday invite us to reconsider our cynicism and self-reliance, they invite us to look at the world around us and to see it through the eyes of the one who gave everything in order that we might know God’s forgiveness and, ultimately, share in the joy that is his alone to give.

Our first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles: chapter 11, verses 1 to 18. In this reading the apostle Peter has a series of dreams in which he is invited to eat of the feast that is laid before him by God. Treating this as a test of his obedience to the man-made rules of the Jewish faith, he refuses the divine invitation. Then God addresses his refusal: What God has made clean, you must not call profane. Throughout history there has been much conflict between races and nations, between people who look or behave in different ways, because of local fears and prejudices. Such attitudes have led to the spilling of much blood and to great acts of injustice and violence. We do not have to look far to see the same things still going on in our ‘modern’ world. However, God’s words to Peter are a model for us all. In Genesis, in the biblical account of the creation, we are told that: God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. From the very beginning of time we have been called to honour and respect each other, to set aside our petty differences and to move forward as one, because we are all made in the image of our loving, creator God.

Then, in our second reading from John’s Gospel: chapter 13, verses 31-35, we find ourselves back in the Upper Room on the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, and we hear him give us his new commandment of love. Jesus says: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. As we journey through the season of Easter we cannot be in any doubt about the totality of Jesus’ love for humanity. Jesus sacrificed himself in order that humanity might enter into a new relationship with his, and our, heavenly Father. Jesus said: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. There is nothing lukewarm or partial about such love. Such love is open and forgiving and all-embracing.

This Sunday we are confronted with a stark challenge. That challenge is to stop acting solely in our own interests and to recognize the value of every living person on this earth. Then, in valuing that person we need to obey Jesus’ new command that such ‘valuing’ should go one step further and should be the type of love that he demonstrated some two thousand years ago. Such a challenge is difficult for us to take on because we are hard-wired to put the ‘self’ before all else. As we carry on the journey between Easter and Pentecost, let us pray that we might be ready to receive the Holy Spirit with joy, and that we might be ready to shine as Christ’s beacon of hope and love in this difficult and challenging world.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen