Letter to parishioners, 19 March 2022

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is now two years since I wrote the first of these weekly Letters to Parishioners. That first letter addressed the closure of our churches by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the need to continue supporting our local Food Banks, and the institution of local initiatives to support friends and neighbours who were about to be plunged into a prolonged period of isolation. I also announced the setting up of our new website – a website that still has a daily congregation that stretches across the world. That first Letter to Parishioners ended with these words: Please continue to pray for our country, our leaders, our communities and the mission of our Church during these challenging times. How sad that such prayers are needed more than ever as we journey through the global catastrophe which is the war in Ukraine, economic uncertainty brought on by conflict and political machinations, and that which many see as a ‘threat’ to the future of a parochial system that has served the faithful since Saxon times.

In this week’s reading from Luke’s gospel (Luke 13:1-9) we hear Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree. This reading opens with an account of the horrors that have befallen communities that would undoubtedly have believed that they were living ‘good’ and ‘faithful’ lives. These accounts of cruel persecutions and man-made disasters are met with Jesus uttering one word of instruction: Repent. As we journey through Lent all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ are called to ‘repent’, that is to ‘turn around’ and to follow a different path. We are also called to remain steadfast in our faith as we journey through the mess of human life. Our repentance, our commitment to a renewed and revitalised faith, will give us the strength to resist all that human ambition, cruelty, greed and pride might throw at us.

I often hear people speak of their being ‘beyond’ the point of saving. This is, of course, theological nonsense. None of us are beyond the saving love of God. It is his gracious will that we might all come to know his forgiveness, his healing and his joy, but … we do have to play our part in that transaction. We do all have to respond to his call to repentance, and we have to remember that none of us are beyond hope.

In the second half of this week’s reading from Luke we hear that parable of the fig tree. The fig tree had become barren. As it no longer seemed capable of bearing fruit the owner of the land decided that it should be cut down and cast aside. But, the gardener remained hopeful. Rather than writing off the barren tree he begged that it might be given a second chance to flourish.

I wonder where you believe you might sit in this story? We are, of course, the barren fig tree. In our complacency and self-assuredness we have, too often, ceased to produce spiritual fruit; we have fallen far short of our calling to be faithful disciples of Christ. This should not be a surprise, given the world in which we find ourselves! However, for God, that is not the end of the story. In his fullness as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is nurturing and guiding us to a renewed life of faith. We just have to recognize that call … and then respond to it in hopeful and faithful joy.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen