From the Rector
In my column here last month I mentioned how we might look for signs of hope and encouragement to sustain us in the gloomy and sombre weeks of midwinter, when days are short and good news seems to be in short supply.
People have been kind enough to tell me that they found my thoughts helpful. One reader even said that she was moved to read my letter twice! Inspired by her commitment, I reread what I had written and decided to make a renewed effort to follow my own advice.
The result was that by purposely thanking our postman for his daily efforts, I discovered that we share a sporting passion and now we have almost daily exchanges about the day’s runners and riders; I have upped my number of pastoral phone calls and have been rewarded with several fascinating conversations with lonely parishioners who have probably done me more good than I did them; I have spent even more time than usual gazing at the glorious birds that come into the garden for food and have spotted redwings, exquisite visiting winter thrushes, at least five times in the hazel hedge; and I have made a point of holding in prayer members of our villages who I know have been having a tough time of it.
There is a scene in St Mark’s Gospel that I find fascinating. A group of four men want to bring their paralysed friend to Jesus, hoping that his healing touch can help him.
Jesus is teaching the people from inside a house in Capernaum, a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But there are so many people eager to hear Jesus that the house is absolutely crammed. There isn’t even any space, Mark tells us, outside the doorway of the house. But such is the determination of this quartet that they carry their stretchered friend up onto the flat roof, make a hole in the slats and lower him down into the room below, right in front of Jesus.
We are told that Jesus was astonished at the depth of their faith and that he healed the man. It’s a dramatic story and one ripe for our imagining, but what I find so compelling about it is that this is effectively what we do when we pray for a friend in need or for one another-we are bringing them into the Lord’s presence.
It just requires of us that we find a few moments in the day to pause and do just that for our families, our friends, and those who are sick, suffering, lonely or sad. We hold them in our mind’s eye, in prayer, and bring them to Jesus, asking for him to bless them and keep them safe.
All prayer is ultimately a mystery but time and again in my ministry I have been told by parishioners that this prayer, this bringing them into the Lord’s presence, has sustained them in their darkness or need.
At this time when physical support is so problematical, the support of prayer can mean so much to people. It is one more way in which we can hold the light of hope before one another, a light no darkness can overcome.