Letter to parishioners, 25 June 2022

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week we heard of the people of the Gerasenes asking Jesus to leave them alone. This week we will hear of a village of the Samaritans refusing to welcome him. Both of these readings from the gospel narrative remind us of the role we are called to play if we are to live the genuinely Christian life.

The world in which we live overflows with distractions and temptations. In his letter to the early Christians in Galatia, Paul warns of the works of the flesh that separate us from God. Paul’s list is long and it is couched in strong terms. The problem is that the over-arching words that he uses gives us an excuse for distancing ourselves from their presence in our own lives. Words such as: fornication, impurity, and licentiousness, as well as idolatry and sorcery are alien to our everyday thinking and cannot, therefore, be written about us. However, Paul’s list goes on, he also warns against: enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, faction, envy and things like these. These negative attributes are not unknown to us. For some they seem to be the very driving force that propels them through their daily lives. How many times do we speak of others in these negative ways, totally ignoring Christ’s call to love and forgive both neighbours and enemies?

This paints a picture of utter despair and hopelessness. All of these works of the flesh, as Paul describes them, seem fundamental to the way in which human society operates, but that does not have to be the case. Paul contrasts the negative with the positive; as well as diagnosing the illness he offers us the cure. He goes on to speak of the fruit of the Spirit, and gives us the recipe for the true Christian life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Paul lays out the attributes we should strive to place at the heart of our very selves, the core of our Christian identities.

We all know that it is not easy to be loving, joyful, peaceful and patient when we are surrounded by so many who deride and despise our faith, but that is our calling. Jesus knew that it would not be an easy path, the path that he walked before us. This Sunday we will also hear his words. He will tell us that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head; that the dead should bury the dead and that our first priority should be to go and proclaim the kingdom of God; and that no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Not an attractive representation of the Christian life, but one many of us can recognize. To follow Christ’s call is to live by the Spirit, which means that we will always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit.

In the coming days let us recognize our faults and our inadequacies, and let us not hide behind our immediate desire to blame the other person. Let us look for the good in others, rather than revelling in their faults and weaknesses. Let us open our hearts and our minds to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order that we might walk the challenging path, the path which will ultimately lead us into the eternal presence of our loving and faithful God.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen