Letter from the clergy - Friday 4 September 2020

First published on: 3rd September 2020

Dear Friends,

Our last two Sundays in church have gone really well, and it’s been good to be back in church, though I know that for many of you 9.30am is too early, or that for various health reasons you are unable to come out. If you are able to watch the online service, it’s going to be a really good one this week, with James leading from various outdoor locations in Jersey, giving us an insight into life on the island, and the ways that landscape can speak to us. For many of us we’ve found a new appreciation for places close by during lockdown, but we do still really miss the places, and the people, that we haven’t been able to see over the last few months. It was a great joy for me to accompany Lorna last Saturday as she delivered the letters and notices, and to be able to have a chat with some of you in person. I was struck by the love and care for one another that there is amongst members of our congregation, and the commitment to making sure that people feel connected. There’s a real sense that we’re all in this together.

Revd Sue Ward will be taking the service in church on Sunday, but online, I will be preaching on ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, from our first reading (Romans 13.8-end). This was a command from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19.18) and was picked up by Jesus too, as we hear in the Gospels. You will remember one of the teachers of the law asking which was the most important commandment, and Jesus saying The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12.28-31).

Jesus went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan (often called the kind stranger in children’s Bibles) to illustrate that our neighbour is anyone in need, not just the person who lives next door. Our neighbour may be someone who is unknown to us, or even, and this is a challenge, someone who is hostile to us, but we are commanded to love them. There can be a fear of ‘the other’, people who may be a threat to our way of life, or a potential source of infection. Professor John Swinton wrote recently that when we think about how best to love our neighbour during a pandemic, we need to learn how to be with, and to talk about, one another in ways that bring healing and not fear.’ St Paul wrote about living as people who belong to God’s kingdom in our behaviour towards others, turning away from spiritual darkness and putting on the ‘armour of light’, open to the transforming work of the Spirit, so that we might become more loving, more Christ-like in our outlook and behaviour.

At the end of each service the minister says ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’ As we reflect on the places we will go out to this week, let’s pray that we would take with us the love and peace of Christ, that we would in some way make the world a better place by being more loving towards our neighbour, and bringing the light of Christ into new places.   

A prayer

Lord, may we be people who bring healing rather than fear.
Stir our hearts by the power of your Holy Spirit,
so that we respond with love and compassion to our neighbours near and far.
We ask in the precious name of Jesus, our Saviour, Amen.

With grace and peace,
Sue McWhinney         
sue@stjohnsfarsley.org.uk         
07484 181699


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