Hello and summer greetings to all.
So August is now upon us, and with it, the normal unreliability of our British climate but this time with the added increasing anxiety over renewed upward trends in Covid cases and the uncertainty that that brings. This year has clearly not been the year any of us were expecting!
Whilst cases and symptoms of the coronavirus in the south-west have been thankfully relatively low compared to further afield, many people nevertheless have still suffered greatly under the necessary restrictions that lockdown has imposed: loneliness, fear, financial pressure or loss and acute mental health challenges to name but a few. And so, it’s into this contex, that we as church members – believing followers of Christ – seek to bring His message of hope and light into our community, our culture and our city.
St Paul urges us that there is a pathway to peace that involves us looking to and engaging with God rather than becoming paralysed or being swept along by the tide of fear that can so easily subdue or overwhelm us. “Do not be anxious about anything”, says St Paul… Really? That sounds easier said than done! But this isn’t just some wishful ‘self-help’ mantra or positive thinking, stiff upper-lip talk, No! This is St Paul directing us to a highway out of hopelessness, towards a new horizon of hope.
He continues with this practical solution: “But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ( Philippians 4:6-7)
“Pray!”, says St Paul – share with God, the God who really is the Good Father. Share your heart – your fears, your tears, your hopes, your pain, your longings, your needs, your joys and your thankfulness. Use whatever words come to mind, be real, be honest, be vulnerable and be expectant. The God who hears the cry of His people is Faithful and Just and wants to respond to you with His love and give you His Peace – a peace that stills the cacophony of clamour and dread that so often seeks to engulf us. But God’s peace is so much more than simply an absence of noise, it reaches far beyond to the deepest places of our soul. For God’s Shalom Peace speaks fully into our entire history, our past struggles, our present circumstances and our future concerns, offering reassurance and hope to the deepest parts of our soul.
And it’s so powerful, because it’s a peace won at the hugest of costs, as Isaiah assures us, pointing forwards to Jesus in his beautiful prophetic promise in 700 BC, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Shalom. Of the increase of his government and shalom there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
This is peace on a global scale, won through a single epoch shattering moment, as several chapters later Isaiah goes on to specifically foretell (hundreds of years before crucifixion had even been invented) the wounds the suffering servant must endure to bring us true peace. “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us shalom was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
This is the great foundation and cornerstone of our faith, Christ crucified. It is, of course, this great sacrifice that we remember and celebrate in the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine – a sacrament that for many months we have had to painfully refrain from.
And so, it is with hopeful expectation that we look forwards towards to our intended ‘re-gathering’ as a Parish to share in this eucharistic meal in early September.
Of course, I type this with slight trepidation, not fully knowing what future weeks and months will hold, but hopeful that our planned launch of services at St Thomas à Becket will go ahead as scheduled on September 13th at both 8am and 10.30 where of course you can be assured of our full adherence to government and Church of England health guidelines.
This day, though full of complications, including social distancing and the now legal requirement of wearing face-masks, will not subdue our joy. It will be wonderful to gather together again as family, to worship and share communion. Though unable to sing, we will worship together in word and sacrament and as an added celebration we plan to make this day our harvest service – a true ‘Eucharistic’ or ‘thanksgiving’ service – one of gratitude, thanks and praise to God our Provider and our Peace.
If you are able to join with us then please, if you can, bring an offering suitable for the food bank for which Genesis and others would I know be very grateful and it can be dropped at the porch in some provided boxes.
Watch this space for news of the next steps for St Matts! Meanwhile I hope you have a wonderful peace filled Summer, restful and healthy, and look forward to seeing you again very soon.
Love and prayers,
Tim, Sarah, Ellie, Sam and Jo. xXx