LETTER FROM THE VICARAGE
On this page we reproduce the monthly letter from our Vicar (or occasionally from our Licensed Reader Janice Taylor) as it appears in our parish magazine, the Parish News.
Letter from the vicarage
FROM THE VICARAGE - NOVEMBER 2019
Well it happened dear friends. It happened on the 1st of October and it caught me totally unprepared.
Having just celebrated a wonderful Harvest Thanksgiving, and realising the Gospel for the following Sunday was on faith like a mustard seed, I went to the garden centre to get said seeds for the children's teaching. As the automatic doors glided open I found myself stepping into ….. you've guessed it ….. a winter wonderland of Christmas displays! It was at that point that my thought of 'You have got to be joking! Christmas!' did not remain in my mind as I had intended, but had somehow escaped rather loudly from my lips. I know this because a head popped up from amidst the baubles, tinsel and waving Santa's to say “I know, and if they start playing those wretched carols …. “.
Still, it made us both laugh.
I don't want to sound all 'baa humbug' about Christmas coming too soon, but I do wonder if we are so busy looking ahead to the next thing that we sometimes forget to pause, take note, and engage with the present. November can so easily be swamped with preparations for December that we rush past this opportunity to stop and reflect.
'Remember, remember the fifth of November' goes the children's rhyme as we build the bonfire and set off the fireworks. Before the days of instant access to information, before the days of the majority of the population being able to read, children's rhymes were a good way to teach and help people remember. The rhyme 'Ring a ring of roses' is often connected to teaching about the Black Death, about how to spot the symptoms and how we should not forget the devastating consequences of it. Our bonfire rhyme not only celebrates the prevention of the blowing up of the Parliament (I shall refrain from making any sort of witty comment at this point) but also served as a dire warning of the consequences of attempting to do so.
Our Remembrance commemorations also carries a dual aspect of remembering. We rightly honour and give thanks for the great sacrifices made by all those who gave of themselves to protect our land and uphold our way of life, but we also commemorate their sacrifices so as to not forget the devastating consequences of war in the hope that we will not lightly enter into it once more.
This dual aspect of remembering encourages us to stop and reflect rather
than just hark back to earlier experiences which we are prone to do through rose-tinted spectacles. Attaching a song, or story, or ritual to such remembering deepens our understanding and appreciation of what it is we are recalling and learning from.
Singing songs and telling stories are probably the most ancient forms of learning, especially in past illiterate generations. It is not surprising then, that many of our great hymns encompass teaching as well as praise, it is often said hymns are our sung theology. Even today, we find it easier to remember hymns and bible stories than vast tracts of scripture. And Jesus was of course a consummate teacher through stories. Parables are stories, but stories which convey the teachings of Jesus and the love of God in ways we can better remember, and which also invite us to then pause and reflect.
Earlier I mentioned the teaching of faith like a mustard seed, and no doubt, without giving it much thought, many of you would have recalled the many layered teaching from the imagery in that story. Jesus often used agricultural imagery in his teachings, not just because agriculture was very much part of their daily lives (therefore making that imagery easily accessible to them, and us), but because our growing in faith and the love of God mirrors the growth and care of a plant so beautifully.
Seeds are a very precious commodity. Each seed has within itself the potential of new life. But that new life can only come into being if the seed is nurtured and cared for. So too our faith. Faith the size of a mustard seed is indeed a beautiful thing and Jesus rejoices in it, but he also longs for that seed of a faith to not only grow, but to flourish so that it can reach its full potential of new life within us.
In our hectic 'instant' culture where we're always looking ahead to 'the next thing' (like Christmas in October – baa humbug) we should always find time to keep up with 'the gardening' of our faith. Make sure the ground is fertile by keeping our hearts open to God. Water well with prayer to prevent it from drying out. Give it plenty of support from scripture and church fellowship so that it grows good and strong. And then allow it to flourish and bloom so that others can see it and be encouraged from it too.
Or as St Paul rather more eloquently puts it:
'For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.' (Ephesians 3:14-21)