04 May Minister’s update
By the time you read this I will be on sabbatical. I mention that not as a reminder to contact Rev. Stephen Wright, whilst I’m away, and not me (but please do that!), but as inevitably I am thinking about change. Firstly, a change for me over these three months, a change (as good as a rest?) for the church, as I won’t be pestering you for three months, and a chance for all of us to look to the future. Whilst I’m away the Circuit process will begin to assess what will happen when I move on.
I’m writing this in the week after the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. At that time a couple of people had mentioned to me that they had been greatly affected, not because they knew him personally but because he had been a constant feature in their lives. In particular, being of a similar generation, their lives has marched to a similar rhythm of growth, family, aging. There was that which was unspoken too.
These things are reminders that we live in a world of change but also of continuity or rather repeated rhythm. The seasons come and go each year with the same pattern. The church year progresses through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and so on. Each year finds us changed, subtly or dramatically, either in ourselves or by our surrounding circumstances.
This is the way life is, summed up beautifully by the writer of Ecclesiastes in that poetic passage in chapter 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”. Well worth reading if you haven’t done so for a while.
The repeated seasons however tell us that we are part of something much bigger. When we look at the stars we know that our earliest ancestors saw the same night sky, and that the wonder of creation and the eternity of time are both evidence of God’s love – “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands” – Psalm 19. The greatest wonder though may be, as the old hymn writer put it, “I cannot tell why he, whom angels worship, should set his love upon us, now or then”. It is a love so profound that at the cross we see the one moment when the eternal unity of the Trinity, the Trinity which holds together all that that has ever been or will be, is broken for the only time, and this for love of us. Sam Wells in his brilliant new book “A cross at the heart of God” puts it like this – “At the central moment in history, Jesus the incarnate Son of God, has to choose between being with the Father or being with us. And he chooses us. At the same time the Father has to choose between letting the Son be with us of keeping the Son to himself. And he chooses to let the Son be with us. That’s the choice on which our eternal destiny depends. That’s the epicentre of the Christian faith. That’s our very definition of love”.
Worth pondering for at least three months. See you in July.