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Rob’s Message June/July 2017

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Dear Friends,

I stood in each of our churches on Sunday (21st) and at the end of the service said those words of dismissal which I have used so many times over nearly fifteen years as your Parish Priest: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. The difference was, of course, that these were the last times that I would be saying them as your Parish Priest and the full import of that suddenly came upon me. So it was encouraging to see many of you at the services and thank you for your lovely words and sentiments.

I have always tried to look forward rather than to fix my mind on things that have already happened. I am not always successful at that, and the older I get, the less successful I am, it seems. And, so, the thought of leaving behind the last fifteen years is painful to say the least… until I remind myself that, rather than leaving them behind, they will be coming with me; part of who I am and what I can be. The past is in some ways inaccessible – what has happened cannot be undone, or redone for that matter – but it can and should inform, encourage, bring joy and sometimes hopefully only a little sadness, engender incentive, foster hope, and help ‘to use aright the time that is left to us here on earth’, as a prayer in one of the Prayer Books has it. It is not a time for doom and gloom! But rather a time for rejoicing in the good times we have shared together.

All this is happening at a very important time in the Church Calendar – Ascension and Pentecost – a time of separation and a time of coming together. At his ascension, Jesus is ‘taken up’ to heaven, leaving the disciples to await the fulfilment of God’s promise, the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. They are disconsolate at Jesus’ departure, and have to be reminded to look forward: ‘Men of Galilee,’ say the two men dressed in white who appear amongst them, ‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ This timely reminder to look forward and not backward is brought to fruition at Pentecost; the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in a mighty, rushing wind and tongues of fire as they gather together in one place (Acts 1 and 2). Suddenly the pieces of the jig-saw fall into place and they realise that they are not alone, that Jesus is with them in the Holy Spirit, and there is a real purpose to their lives. They have come together again. No longer rudderless, they know where to go and what to do, and so begins the remarkable journey of the growth of Christian faith. And we are part of that journey – the baton is handed on, and if we believe in God’s promise that He is with us in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can look forward with courage, step out in faith and know that we do so in the company of the One in whom ‘we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).

Thank you all so much for sharing in our journey; may the road rise to meet you, the wind be always at your back, the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields; and until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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