Rector's Letter - March 2017
Driving to my sister’s house on Christmas Day on the M5, after all the services were complete, I found myself suddenly feeling a dramatic leftwards pull on my car, and a ker-clunk ker-clunk sound started up which I knew was distinctly unhealthy! I sensed my control of the car slipping and made my way across the lanes of (admittedly low) traffic to get onto the hard shoulder – at the same time as having a distinct memory of my mobile phone left sitting on my upstairs window sill at home: the only place I get any reception!
I didn’t dare stop, but slowly kept going on the hard shoulder for a mile or so, with the ker-clunk not getting any better, until thankfully I spotted an emergency telephone. Pulling up, I picked up the Freephone, and with relief someone reassured me that they could telephone the RAC on my behalf and once I’d given them the number on the side of the telephone, they not only located me, but found me on camera and said they would keep an eye on me until the emergency rescue turned up. I was really impressed! The RAC arrived within 20 minutes and within the hour my car was loaded up onto the back of the truck and I was towed the remaining hour’s journey to my sister’s (gear box had gone – expensive Christmas Day, but that’s another story...) On the way, the RAC man told me he had spotted the ‘Reverend’ in front of my name, and opened up about how his father had terminal cancer. And so on Christmas Day afternoon suddenly a vulnerability opened up, a conversation was had, a need was met. The journey had not gone smoothly as I had hoped, but yet it was purposeful and worthwhile. Sometimes journeys are like that... Circuitous, painful and fruitful.
The Christian story is full of difficult journeys: from the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, through to the Christmas journeys of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the magi’s journey from the East. At the heart of our faith is the most difficult of journeys – the journey of Jesus to the cross. And yet a journey full of purpose. The Christian life calls us to ‘take up our cross’ and follow Christ – we should not be surprised if this is sometimes challenging and not easy. We wonder why the journey is not smooth – but the promise is not for an easy life, but that God travels alongside us, giving us courage, strength and the ability to journey on.
Wednesday 1st March sees us enter into Lent, with our Ash Wednesday services. Here we gather, receive ash on our forehead as a sign of penitence and also our brokenness, as we begin our own journey through Lent. We retell the story of Christ’s journey to the cross, and we travel with him... through the stories of the temptations in the wilderness, and the temptation to evade suffering and find an easy way rejected. On through the recognition that the radical love Jesus showed was too much for the world, and was met with a desire to kill it on the cross, because it demanded too much. On through the journey of Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper, the watch and wait in the Garden of Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial... On through the dark and agonising hours of Good Friday, the stark absence and bewilderment of Holy Saturday. And reaching journey’s end – a new beginning - with resurrection and the dawn of Easter Day.
Lent invites us on a journey. It is not always comfortable, but it is profound and purposeful, and journey’s end is suffused with joy.
Come and join us in our Lent Groups, in our services throughout this period, and particularly in that last week of Holy Week, when we engage with the greatest of stories, the greatest of journeys.
We are delighted that Bishop Robert will be coming to lead us at Minchinhampton throughout the whole of Holy Week. Join us for what promises to be a very special week.
With best wishes