This is my penultimate “Dear Friends” before retiring at the end of September 2021. I’ve written around 60 over the last 10 years with a wide range of subjects – some controversial in some people’s eyes, others, to encourage each person into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for that is the only thing that lasts into eternity.
One thing rural clergy have to do a lot of is driving from village to village, especially on Sundays, to lead worship, engage with congregations, pick up pastoral issues and pray with folk in the short time in each place. I heard a story recently about a place where lots of car accidents had occurred; as a consequence big warning signs were erected, but then, others questioned why these signs were needed. They were told the warnings were to save lives.
God’s Word is full of stories from which we can learn, some of which are serious warnings from history; for instance, stories of polygamous marriages don’t give us permission to do the same, but to learn from the consequences of rivalry, favouritism and flawed family life. There are stories of priests and kings and their failures to walk with God, and instead going after their own lustful pleasures, or making very wrong decisions without consulting the Lord - these warn us not to do the same, but to walk in step with God.
There are also great stories of courage and faith– David and Goliath – which echoes so often today when small people take on big companies or evil tyrants and win, for “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
There’s heroism under pressure, like Daniel, who refused to bow the knee to any other god but the true God, was thrown into a den of lions, but was saved by angels; bowing the knee for us as Christian people should only be to our monarch, who knows the Living God herself and therefore bows the knee to Him alone, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. No virtue signalling here.
There’s Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who also refused to worship what the king and the culture told them. “Even if our God does not save us, we will not bow down to an idol”; thrown into a fiery furnace, Jesus appeared with them in the fire, and they came out of the furnace without a hair singed.
The greatest Good News story is a Saviour who came into the world to save us from the consequences of our sins, and give us the Holy Spirit to change us to be more like him as we trust Him daily.
When I left one of my previous jobs, the jokers in the congregation set up a “This was your Curacy” in the vein of “this is Your Life”; they were merciless in picking up my habits and gestures, but we laughed a lot. I still have a copy of the video.
When we get to the throne of heaven, perhaps a similar video of our lives will be ready for broadcast, not only detailing the laughter, but every careless word, every thoughtless gesture, every secret thought will be revealed. I’m not sure I would like my personal life, with my faults and failings, as well as the good bits, to be written about and read about two thousand years later like so many in scripture; but the good news of the gospel is that when we walk with Jesus, when we get to that day – and we all will – when the video tape or CD is inserted and play button pressed, all that will be seen is the life of Jesus, for our lives are hidden with Christ in God – sins washed away, past forgiven and wiped clean, and only what has been achieved through our walking with Jesus will be left.
You will find information about farewells in September as I come to the close of almost ten years with you – I do hope to see as many people as possible to say a personal good bye - more next month.