Letter to parishioners, 24 September 2022

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

As is so often the case following some momentous moment that causes us to change our normal daily routines, Tuesday, 20th September saw us shaking off the mantle of national mourning and going back to the busyness with which we occupy our daily lives. Shops reopened, politicians returned to the battle-ground of parliamentary business and our television schedules were restored. It was as though the previous ten days had been sufficient to mark the passing of a dutiful, faithful and loyal person. All the words that had been said, all the memories that had been shared and all the speculation about the personal feelings of a grieving family had served their purpose. Tuesday, 20th September was an important day simply because it gave us a moment when we could go back to the mundane and the ordinary.

This week’s gospel reading (Luke 16.19-31) is timely, given the way in which we have rushed to go back to ‘normal’. It tells the story of a rich man whose daily life was spent in hedonistic pleasure. He used his wealth to provide a luxurious lifestyle for himself, a lifestyle that paid no heed to the needs of others, not even the poor man named Lazarus who lay at his gate, begging for food.

In Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, both men die and find themselves in the after-life they have earned during their earthly existence: the poor man, Lazarus, is comforted in the arms of Abraham, while the rich man is tormented in the fires of hell. Suddenly the rich man saw the reality of his situation. If only he had been less self-obsessed, more observant of the needs of others, more generous and loving in the way he had lived out his earthly life! It also dawned on him that his five brothers were destined to suffer the same fate. In his desperation he asked that Lazarus might be allowed to warn his brothers of all that lay before them if they did not change their ways. But … that was not to be! Abraham said to the rich man: If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rise from the dead.

This week we have been given yet another opportunity to repent, to turn around and follow another path. We have reflected upon and celebrated a life that was shaped by a commitment made over seventy years ago. After the ‘pause’ of national mourning, we were provided with a moment when we could have looked at our ‘normal’ way of living and made changes that would have brought us closer to the model we were given by Jesus Christ and, therefore, closer to God. This ‘pause’ in our daily schedules was different to the more prolonged gap that occurred during the height of the Covid pandemic, but it was yet another moment when we could have chosen to follow the path that was laid by God himself. Sadly, for most of us, that was a choice we chose not to make.

We are surrounded with life-changing and life-defining challenges. Climate, economic, international and social crises confront us on a daily basis. The question is: What do we do in response to those challenges? As human beings we struggle with change, but that is God’s call to us. He calls us to become different people … less selfish, more caring, more compassionate, more loving. Furthermore, if we are up for the challenge of changing our ways, he promises us the strength of the Holy Spirit in this life, and eternal joy in his nearer presence in the next. As ever, the question is are we up for that challenge, or is it just ‘business as usual’?

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen