Pastoral Letter from the Rector
We live in dangerous and difficult times and on Thursday 26 March* The Daily Telegraph
published this photograph drawing our attention to the Coronavirus being a warning from God, although we are not told what is behind the warning. Of course it is not a warning from God in the Biblical sense and fire and brimstone are not going rain down upon us. Many of you will remember the cry that went up in the 1980’s about AIDS being a punishment from God. Pastor Falwell, a southern Baptist Pastor regularly claimed: “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” And similar outrageous screaming headlines. Quite frankly, in my opinion such statements were both wicked and totally un-Christian. God does not punish us like this, and Jesus never said that life would be a bed of roses. The Magazine ‘Christian Today’ puts it succinctly
“In John 16:33a, Jesus throws a hardball at His disciples when He says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.” One can just imagine the look on the disciples faces. Up until this point most of them might still have thought that life was going to be smoother and better now with Jesus around. Up until the time Jesus was about to ascend to heaven, some of the disciples had still not gotten this message. Acts 1:6 says, “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'” Even when Jesus explained to them that life following Christ was not going to be a walk in the park, the disciples were still looking for the easy way out – an Israel that was politically, economically and culturally better. How many times do we find ourselves in this situation? We think that just because we’re Christians, that we’re never going to experience lack, that we’ll always have a parking space near the mall and that we’ll never get caught in the rain. God never tells us that He’s going to stop all problems from coming your way, but He does promise that even as trials come He will sustain us through them.
I put things slightly differently when I address this problem and I am going to paraphrase what I think Jesus would say to us: ‘I gave you something of me… a soul…. you are made in my image. But I do not control you or your world; I gave you life and I gave you a domain. What you do with life and your world is up to you, but remember I am all around you… I see you, I hear you, I feel your pain. I share your joys…as a man I have been with you and I know you better than you know yourselves.’
And yet there is a different type of warning inherent in this terrible pandemic and that is for humanity to change and come closer together as a species and to work for a better world by looking after the weak and the vulnerable; by seeing what we can do for those worse off than ourselves, especially in the third world. By working together and crossing religious and political boundaries we will move to a much more cohesive society. A Christian should hold to the view that in Jesus Christ there are no barriers of age, race, colour, class, creed, sexual orientation or anything else, we are, whoever we are all precious children of God.
Every year on Easter Day and at Christmas the Pope gives a blessing ‘Urbi et Orbi’ to the City and the World, as St John’s is both a pilgrimage and a historical tourist site, where we receive people from all over the world and we say: WELCOME TO ST JOHN’S, Vítejte na St John’s, VELKOMMEN TIL ST JOHN, BIENVENUE À ST JOHN’S, WILLKOMMEN IN ST. JOHN´S.. BENVENUTI A SAN GIOVANNI… WELKOM BIJ ST JOHN’S …. VELKOMMEN TIL ST JOHN’S … WITAMY U ŚW. JANA…. ДОБРО ПОЖАЛОВАТЬ В «СЕНТ–ДЖОНС» BIENVENIDOS A ST. JOHN´S …BENVINGUTS A SANT JOAN … CROESO I ST.IOAN.
Then, here in this Pastoral letter we too will give a Blessing to the City of Chester and the whole world at this great time of need and I can do no better than give you the great Aaronite or Priestly Blessing, the Birkat Kohanim found in Numbers 6: 23 – 27: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. As Christians we would add: and the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and all who you love and care for, this day and unto eternity.