Pastoral Letter

I was fortunate enough to have a very gentle father whose view of God was reflected in his own character. That's not to say that my father couldn't be strict. He certainly was but my overwhelming sense of him was gentle, loving, kind and forgiving. I still remember sitting on his lap and listening to the beat of his heart. As a result of this overall experience my image of God was very much the same as his. Gentle, loving, kind, forgiving and merciful as well as occasionally strict when required.

Our image of God is very often, though not always, coloured by our upbringing. This encompasses a wide range of contributing factors, which potentially might have included our parents’ and grandparents’ own perception due to their upbringing, the influence of our teachers and head teachers, images that we have seen that have influenced our understanding, the particular stage our society was at during our upbringing, not to mention any bad experiences we had of church and our local vicar.
The image and understanding of God I received made me want to follow him. I'm strongly aware that many were put off God and the church completely by the image and understanding they received. The reality is that none of the images that we have received are necessarily correct or complete. True, some are closer than others but none of them reveal completely and truly who God is. I have discovered that it is only as I search for the truth both in scripture and in what I see revealed around me that I begin to get a more accurate picture of God. Most notably Jesus clearly demonstrates who God is, what he's like and how he sees humanity and the world.
Jesus was extremely charismatic and many found solace in him. If you want to listen to the beat of God’s heart, listen to the words of Jesus that flow from God’s intense love for humanity and this world; a love that we, incidentally, are meant to pass on to others.

Preparing for a recent funeral I was struck again by the words of Jesus recorded in John 14:1-6 (I have included them on the prayer page) and how gentle they are. If you have ever seen God as fierce or mostly strict and severe such gentle words are for you. Jesus did have a fierce side but that was mostly reserved for the religious and political leaders of the day who, by their rules, regulations, demands and behaviour were oppressing people and excluding them from a place in God’s family. Jesus was justly angry that they were placing such ‘heavy loads’ on the backs of the weak and disadvantaged. He had an altogether gentler voice and attitude toward the ordinary person who was searching for hope and mercy. Read the words of John 14: 1-6 and see how gentle they are; how winsome. Look at the Gospels and see how Jesus was with most ordinary people seeking something ‘more’.

Finally, Jesus’ presence on earth and his sacrifice truly reveals the intention of God’s heart and trumps every negative perception. God loved the world so much that Jesus came and risked everything to make it possible for us to be rescued to the joy and security of his Kingdom, both in this world and the next. I invite you to listen because God is calling to you.

May God continue to bless your summer.
Stephen

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