Letter to parishioners, 16 July 2021

Friday, 16 July 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday’s gospel reading shows us a moment when Jesus is inviting his disciples into a moment of withdrawal and peace. Having responded to his call to go out and share the Good News far and wide, they returned with raised spirits and great joy. Jesus had commissioned them to preach the message of repentance, to cast out demons and to heal the sick. Today we hear of their return, and we hear of Jesus’ immediate response: Come away to a deserted place … and rest a while.

In these modern times, our lives tend to be filled with activity and worry. We feel as though we are constantly rushing from one commitment to another. We struggle to find a moment’s peace to rest in the company of family and friends, let alone in the company of God. We get excited and angry, anxious and elated, but we rarely give ourselves time for these emotions to register before we move on to the next round of demands and crises. Today, Jesus is showing us the appropriate reaction to all that might befall us in our daily lives: Come away to a deserted place … and rest a while.

Many people find themselves offering up a prayer when the challenges of daily life become too much to bear, but how many offer a prayer of thanks when all is going well? Prayers for healing are often muttered as loved ones lie on their sick beds, but how often do we pray that we might know the joy of wholeness and oneness with God when life seems to be going well? So often, we pray that the ‘impossible’ might happen in order that our material welfare might be enhanced and our earthly lives enriched in some way, but how often do we pray for the strength to accept our lot in order that we might journey ever closer to our heavenly Father?

Today, Jesus is showing us the way to a truly intimate relationship with God, a way that will lead us through the coming days of uncertainty. Last Monday the Prime Minister made an announcement to the nation that was meant to be a rallying cry. We are all going to be released from the constraints of the Covid regulations. Surely there is much to celebrate in that promise. Or is there? Not everyone is going to be free. For many the freedom we are being offered is going to bring about a renewed sense of fear and isolation. For so many whose immune systems are compromised the Prime Minister’s loudly heralded ‘Freedom Day’ is going to be no such thing.

Of course, as well as announcing the lifting of restrictions, there was also the announcement that we should take personal responsibility for ourselves and for others. This caveat fits well alongside Jesus’ words to his ecstatic disciples at the opening of this week’s gospel. We will want to dance and shout, we will want to forget the last sixteen months and return to a level of normality that celebrates our own personal whims and fancies, but … we are actually being urged to stop and think, to go into that quiet place and pray about what is best for all. Rather than rushing onto the streets and pretending that it is all over, like some sort of victory celebration, we are being urged to be calm, to rest in God’s presence, to pray for each other and to go forward in a spirit of true Christian love.

So, let us heed Jesus’ words and go away to a deserted place … and rest a while. Then, when we have given God space to speak to us, let us move forward in joy and love. Let us live every moment of every day as messengers of the Good News, as the bringers of healing to all.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen