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Letter to parishioners, 25 June 2021

Friday, 25 June 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In recent days there has been much talk about the world’s continuing response to the Covid pandemic. Should we continue, or even tighten, the restrictions under which we continue to live? Should we abandon all controls and just see what happens? Now that so many are vaccinated, should we feel confident that all will now be well? Difficult questions for difficult times. No doubt we all have our own opinions as to what should and should not happen, as we do in all things.

As I began the weekly routine of pondering the content of my weekly letter I happened to notice that this is the 75th such letter I have written since the beginning of the crisis we have all been living through. Whilst I have not sat and re-read them all, I do remember some of the ‘highlights’. I do remember how the Church has reacted to government declarations and public need. I also remember some of the reactions I have received to my letters, both the kind and supportive as well as the critical and confused. The important thought that sprang into my mind this morning is that we really are all in this together, and that pointing the finger of blame, or allowing ourselves to be overcome with fear flies, in the face of Jesus’ teaching.

In this week’s reading from Mark’s gospel (Mark 5:21-43) we encounter two stories of healing: the end of the suffering of a woman who had suffered from haemorrhages for twelve years, and the raising of Jairus’ daughter. These two accounts are interwoven into one narrative. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, comes to Jesus in desperation as his daughter lies on her death bed. Moved by pity Jesus agrees to go to his house and save her. But, as they set out a woman, who would have been viewed by the community as unclean, came forward and touched Jesus’ robe. She reasoned that just that passing contact would bring about her healing. Feeling the power of such strong faith, Jesus stopped and sought out that ailing woman. Jairus must have been in despair at the delay and yet, despite others declaring his daughter to have died, Jesus brought about new life. The message of this story within a story is one of hope. In the midst of terrible anguish Jesus brought about change and renewal.

We are in a situation where change and renewal are slowing emerging from the months we have been living through. That change and renewal will be just as confusing as it was for all whose lives were transformed by Jesus’ healing touch some two thousand years ago. The challenge for us is to stop convincing ourselves that our ill-informed worldly wisdom is the only way forward. Yes, we have to abide by the rules and regulations imposed by our elected government, but there is an even more powerful authority to which we should offer our total allegiance and obedience, and that authority came into this world in the form of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus offered us forgiveness, love and renewal. As we read in scripture, he was surrounded by the sceptics and the self-appointed experts, and yet it is his message that is the true one.

As the uncertainty lingers on, and as I begin to direct my thoughts towards letter number seventy-six, let us pray for the strength to remain steadfast in our faith. Let us rejoice that we know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Let us look to the future as a time of renewal and hope. And, let us live in the joy of Christian love and service for all.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen