Vicar's Letter

 

VERSE OF 2018:

 

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city”

Jeremiah 29:7 (New International Version)

 

Dear Friends,

 

This year Remembrance Sunday (11th November) marks the centenary of the end of World War One. Of the 65 million men who were mobilized, 8.5 million were killed and a further 21 million wounded.

 

How should we celebrate this anniversary? In remembering the armistice, our response should be to desire Micah’s vision of universal peace in our world: ‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’ (Micah 4:3).

 

The need to keep on asking God for peace could hardly be any clearer, when we continue to see such violence, oppression, and unrest in our world. The Bible makes it clear that peace is not just the absence of war or being untroubled. It means being in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and with other people – and, indeed, with wider society, with the earth we inhabit, and with our own selves.

 

Of course, Micah’s words are looking to the end of time, when God will make all things new in His universal kingdom. However, these promises also speak to us now. The ministry of Jesus demonstrated the kingdom or reign of God breaking into the everyday, as He healed the sick and brought reconciliation and hope.

 

The Centenary of that preventable tragedy, which we call World War 1, is a particularly good time to consider peace. As far as WW1 was concerned, it was not so much “The war to end wars” as “The War that Ended Peace” (to quote a book title). It turned out that human progress towards greater goodness, peace and prosperity is not simply a given after all, and sometimes terrible sacrifices seem to be the only way to rescue civilisation from those who seek to destroy it or to twist it. 

 

At the end of all that sacrifice, there were too many unanswered questions, which would be revisited all too soon in a second, even more terrible, world conflict, which seems to have shocked many influential people in Europe and America into unprecedented levels of cooperation – though that, too, only worked as long as enough of us valued it.  Sadly, it looks as though at long last, too many are forgetting the lessons, and are no longer grateful for the freedoms and prosperity won through sacrifice in war and then by cooperation in peace.

 

But for the Christian there’s surely a deeper lesson.  Peace begins with the healing of hearts, the restoring of relationships, and a deep, costly commitment to justice and to the quest for the best and most constructive ways for us humans to live together on this planet: all of this, rooted in a Sacrifice that was at once more terrible and more wonderful than all others: the Cross of Christ. 

 

It seems a long way from considering such great matters, to talking to you about the “What’s On” of this November, but it makes sense really.  Most of those who laid down their lives did so in the hopes that ordinary-sized people, families, churches, communities , would be better able to live our ordinary-sized lives in peace, with the chance to enjoy life’s ordinary-sized joys, to make up our minds freely about life’s great questions, to explore the richness and beauty of God’s world, and to try to do something for others, often in very homely ways! 

 

So it is without apology that I turn to our Annual Quiz Night on Saturday November 3rd at St John’s Church Hall.  It is unashamedly in aid of Church funds, and always a lot of fun!  Carol Plunkett has once again very kindly agreed to set the Quiz and to compère it.  It starts at 7.00pm and entry is £5/person or £15/family.  You can come as a team, or find a team to join on the night.

 

Then on Saturday 24th we have a Concert for Africa with a difference – The Two Js in concert!  That’s (1) Jonathan Klein, who writes and performs excellent songs in a range of styles, especially a blend of folk and rock, many of them highly entertaining, as a great many of you will know from recent Africa concerts.  And (2) me, generally veering in a Classical/Romantic direction on the piano.  Voice, guitar, and piano, two people who love sharing their music, and hopefully something for most tastes: all in aid of our links with South Rwenzori and the D.R. Congo.  Our African friends need all the help they can get, and will do good with every bit of help we can give.

 

Yours truly,

Julian