Whatever our actual age might be, we are all God's children - known, and loved by God.
Yet the records of Jesus' ministry in the first century show us how much value Jesus placed upon infants, children and young adults. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each* record how some of those following Jesus tried to prevent people bringing their children to see and hear him or to be healed by him. In those days children, along with women and some other sections of society were treated as not worthy of learning or participating in debates about life, politics, or religion. Jesus constantly raised the status of children and the underprivileged giving them a 'voice' and central role in their society.
It is in accordance with Jesus' own teaching and ministry that as a church family we endeavour to recognise that children are 'the church of today' and 'the community of today' just as they may become the church and community of tomorrow.
Our local communities at Nettlestone, Seaview and St Helens are truly blessed to have among them two wonderful Primary schools which enliven and enrich our local villages. Neither Nettlestone nor St Helens Schools are church schools, but they seek to be embedded in the life of the local community, including the church and I am delighted that St Peter's and St Helen's have many opportunities to engage with and support these schools and their staff and pupils.
As a parent, I know just how valuable my son's friendships at St Helens are to him — and to us as a family; (how much his friends and their parents have helped us over the past year, to settle here on the island).
As Priest-in-Charge of St Helens with Seaview I am energised and enthused by the conversations I have with pupils and staff at both schools. Our Sunday worship is enriched by members from both schools singing in the choir or being part of 'Children's Church'. It is all part of preserving and developing our local community. Our local schools are vital to village life and deserve our support especially in times of austerity.
I shall be inviting each of the schools to write for a 'Schools News' page in future editions of this magazine so 'Watch this Space!'
In effect, this is the question all of us entitled and registered to vote were asked last month.
Who do we want to have the power to make decisions and order our lives for us? The general election provided us with a variety of ways to answer this conundrum, and each of us will now be reflecting on the result differently, depending upon our political allegiance or aspiration.
Supposing that instead of the usual plethora of pledges and promises, a political party had set out their manifesto in the form of a poem, this poem, for example, by R.S.Thomas:
It's a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man is King and the consumptive is
Healed: mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back: and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It's a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
On the Sunday after the election, as people left the church service, conversations revealed a variety of widely different reactions to the result. Yet all these people were advocates of a particular kind of Kingdom - on the lines of the above poem, and a particular kind of ruler to rule their lives.
Reconciliation - or the bringing back into harmonious and peaceful relationship, those who have been at-odds, estranged or opposed to one another - is one of the gifts given to humanity through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a tragedy of the Christian Church that in its chequered history it has not always modelled reconciliation and peace, and all too often it's institutions and leaders have abused power and status and oppressed those who should have been treated with gentleness and love.
The transformation of our church and our world into a place where difference is celebrated, and where people with differing backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, opinions, lifestyles and social or economic power, can join together joyfully to share in God's love for every uniquely created human being, is perhaps, still a long way away. Yet a celebration of the wonderful diversity of human life is something that every parish church should be modelling in the 21st Century.
Jesus prayed to God for his followers that; '...so that they may be one, just as you and I are one' and again, '...in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me' ( John 17. 22-23 Good News Bible)
So if we find ourselves on a bus, in a pub, in a church, at school, at home, ...or at any other gathering where there is someone to whom we need to be reconciled, let us hope and pray to have the courage to rejoice that we are each different, yet equally loved by God.
The Easter Cards from our church family of St Peter (Seaview), and St Helena (St Helens), are being distributed as I write. The cards have been wonderfully Illustrated with a triptych painted by Lynn New. The left panel, filled with ominous dark clouds and the purple hues of penitence depicts the desolation of Good Friday and reminds us of Christ's suffering on the cross - when he, fully human yet fully divine, dies at human hands upon the cross. Amidst the horror and pain of his final hours, Jesus last words show us the depth of God's love even for the authors of such pain and suffering. 'Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing'
From the cross, Jesus restores and creates new relationships and brings healing to human lives: 'Here is your Mother', 'Woman, behold your son' Jesus brings new relationship to his friend John and his own grieving mother. On the cross also, Jesus declares that God's work to rescue humanity from itself is completed, 'It is finished'.
The story continues in the far-right panel. Here we see the brightness of the first Easter dawn, bursting from the empty tomb in the radiant light of Christ's resurrection. Golden light shines from within the tomb, and in contrast to the stark wood of the crosses in the first panel, this one displays a tree newly-leaved in green, whilst the impact of what has happened on earth sends shards of Gold healing light into the sky above the tomb.
Both these panels show the cosmological impact of the cross and resurrection - the entire created world is changed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Central Panel shows Mary Magdalene who has come to anoint Jesus' body, - she is distraught at finding the tomb empty, his body gone. She is shown, kneeling - collapsed under the weight of her grief, in front of her the jars of precious oils and ointments she had brought with her to prepare Jesus body for burial. Then; there is Jesus beside her, quietly, gently asking her why she weeps. She does not at first recognise Jesus, but it is when he calls her by name, 'Mary' that she suddenly knows who he is and that He is alive. He is alive for evermore, and evermore a loving presence with her.
As Lynn's painting shows, what Jesus has done for us through his death and resurrection affects creation on both a grand, 'cosmological' scale, and at an intimate personal level.
Whatever you personally are experiencing in your life as you read this, your life is bound-up in the Easter story. Whether you are more able to relate at the moment to the Joy of Easter morning, or the desolation of Good Friday, Jesus came for you, died for you, and rose again for YOU. He is alive for evermore, and evermore a loving presence with YOU.
Jesus, risen to eternal life, enables us through his Holy Spirit, to meet with him through prayer; through art, through music, through friend and stranger, through those we love and through everything which is loving and life-giving. Coming together in worship as a community is an important part of sharing as the body of Christ, and sharing in His story and our stories, our colours blending and enhancing one another like a marvellous painting or tapestry. And even those who are unable or do not wish to get to a church service are woven together in the tapestry of God's love. It is when our individual personal lives meet with the risen Lord Jesus, that not only are we healed and changed, but we are enabled and empowered to help bring healing and change to others.
Anthea, Luke and I wish you all, and those you love a very HAPPY EASTER!
God loves us. God's love for each one of us is infinitely greater than our capacity to love ourselves, one another, or God.
Like a loving parent, God still loves us even when we have done or said things that are wrong and unloving, (towards others, ourselves, or God).
God wants to shower us with God's love and forgiveness. In order for us to receive that cleansing and healing 'shower' of love and forgiveness, we need to cast off the mantle or burden of guilt which so often acts as a barrier between us and God.
It is not that God needs us to repent (or say 'Sorry'), but rather that unless we say sorry, we are still clinging to our clothing of guilt.
To repent, sincerely and honestly is not a mournful thing, or a 'putting-down' of oneself, (though we do so in humility). Repentance is an affirmation of self-worth, because we lay down our guilt in the knowledge of God's love for us, and that through Jesus we are forgiven, healed and restored.
In this 'Penitential Season of Lent' let us joyfully say sorry to God and one-another, and joyfully forgive and be forgiven.