The March Pastoral Letter from the Rectory
“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:11-12)
In the haunting oil painting of “Christ in the Wilderness” by Russian artist, Ivan Kramskoy,
Jesus sits alone looking weighed down and exhausted. His hands are clasped tightly together and his eyes look down at the stony ground in front of him, unfocussed and troubled. His feet are bare, his hair matted and uncared for. His shoulders slump, his expression is grim and somehow the painting suggests he’s been sitting like that for a long time and will continue to do so for …. who can tell how long?
What a contrast this painting offers to the word picture painted in the Gospels about Jesus Baptism in the Jordan. It’s perhaps hard to equate the man of sorrows alone in the wilderness with the man upon whom the Spirit of God descends like a dove, the man whom God calls “my Son, the Beloved”, the man in whom God delights and whose calling and ministry is affirmed and blessed.
Yet Jesus does indeed experience these stark contrasts, with one following immediately after the other. He is driven from the light and love of baptism to the darkness and aloneness of the wilderness and a time of struggle and testing.
Each year in our lectionary of readings we will hear both the story of the baptism of Christ and the revelation of his true identity as God’s beloved Son, and as we begin our journey towards Jerusalem and Christ’s passion and death on the cross in Lent we focus on the wilderness experience of Jesus.
These two experiences in the life of Jesus, baptism and affirmation followed by wilderness and struggle, are inextricably linked. They are two sides of the same coin and it’s only after he has lived through both these experiences that Jesus is prepared and ready to begin the work and ministry to which he is called: to proclaim the good news that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near”.
It’s from Matthew and Luke that we hear about the nature of the temptations that Jesus faced. They’re all linked to the way in which Jesus could choose to use his unique relationship with God (revealed at his baptism) in order to achieve his own ends. And it’s from Matthew and Luke that we hear how Jesus responds to those temptations, each time insisting that being true to God’s kingdom must come first in his life.
But Mark is characteristically economical with words when he writes about Jesus in the wilderness: “He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” It’s almost as if he can’t wait to tell us about Jesus’s public life and ministry of healing and teaching. And perhaps this gives us some time and space to reflect more deeply on our own experiences of struggle and testing.
We may recognise in our own life-experiences some stark contrasts between times of joy and times of sorrow; times of hope and times of fear; times of health and times of pain or illness. Sometimes we can live through times when contrasting events and emotions are running side by side and it feels like we’re on an emotional rollercoaster.
The season of Lent offers an opportunity for us to reflect on our spiritual journey and how life-events are affecting our faith and our relationship with God. Here too we may know contrasts: the “mountain top experiences” when we feel close to God, warmed by his love and excited about where he’s leading us, and then the wilderness experiences when we feel alone, abandoned and afraid because God doesn’t seem to be there and our prayers seem to go unheard.
We may feel surrounded by wild beasts of uncertainty, redundancy, serious illness or bereavement and we may be tempted to give in to despair or to give up on God as he seems to have given up on us.
The Gospels offer us the knowledge that Jesus, even after being affirmed as God’s Son, had to face a tough personal struggle. He remained faithful to God and he remains faithful to us in our struggle. Sometimes knowing someone is alongside us in the hard times is like receiving the ministry of an angel. When that someone is Jesus himself we may perhaps have faith again in our identity as God’s beloved son or daughter.
Your friend and priest,
Church Electoral Roll – are you on yours?
Every church has an Electoral Roll which is a list of its committed members. It is our hope that through being on our Electoral Roll you will be better informed and feel a valued member of the church you attend with a voice in the local and national fellowship of our church.
Being on the roll gives you the right to vote for members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and Deanery Synod at our Annual parochial Church Meetings (APCM).
You can be married at your church even if you live outside the parish.
Making the commitment to the roll and therefore membership of the church means that the responsibility of pastoral care is strengthened and a determined effort is made by members of the ministry team to know all our electoral roll members.
The number on the electoral roll determines the number of representatives a church can have on Deanery Synod. The Deanery Synod sends representatives to the Diocesan Synod and from there representatives go to the General Synod of the Church of England. Thus we have a voice in the affairs of the Church of England and resolutions from parishes have been known to reach General Synod.
Who can be on it?
Anyone over 16 who has been baptised and is a member of the Church of England or a church in communion with it and who is either resident in the parish or who has worshipped regularly at the church over the previous six months. You can be on the electoral roll of more than one church.
Uckfield Deanery Confirmation 8fth July 2015 at Dane Hill with Bishop Richard Jackson
We shall begin the process of preparing for confirmation shortly after Easter. This is an opportunity if you have not been Confirmed to prepare for that next stage - or if you have been confirmed, to refresh yourselves on some of the central doctrines of our faith. We shall also be running young peoples group in both Little Horsted and Holy Cross Schools. Children normally have to be over the age of ten years before being confirmed. Further details will be available shortly but please do speak to the clergy if you would like more information.
Palm Sunday - Holy Thursday-Good Friday - Easter Sunday
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week, with the greatest tragedy and sorrow of the year.
Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem is only one side of the story.
By now many of the Jews are filled with hate for Our Lord. They want to see him stoned, calling Him a blasphemer, especially after offering proof of His Divinity during a winter visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication.
After this, Jesus went to Perea, where he was summoned to Bethany. There he raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle which wins Him such renown among certain Pharisees that they decided finally to end His life.
Jesus took refuge at Ephrem returning six days before Passover to Bethany, triumphantly entering Jerusalem. That evening, He leaves Jerusalem and returns Monday. He spent time with Gentiles in the Temple, and on Wednesday left for the Mount of Olives. Here he foretold the apostles the events of the next several days, including His impending death.
He returned to Jerusalem on Thursday, to share the Last Supper with His apostles. He was subsequently arrested and tried. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem.
He was buried the same day, and arose three days later, on Easter Sunday.
All of this is done by our Lord for forgiveness of our sins, and for life everlasting with Him.
God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.
Our liturgy, that is our worship reflects all of these things.
From earliest times the events of Holy Week have been celebrated by Christians. In Jerusalem, the various sites were visited and commemoration made, the Mount of Olives, Golgotha, the tomb, all became places where worship took place and these acts of worship have been brought back to each church so that as we journey through Holy Week we too can be a part of God's redeeming work. Can I encourage each of you to take as full a part as you can and walk with Jesus.
Sisters of St Margaret
As a parish we have been very blessed by the presence of the Convent and Sisters at Hooke Hall. Sisters have entered fully into the life of the parish and have developed strong pastoral care connections. There has always been an openness to receive the parish into the convent for the Eucharist or other devotions and the quiet afternoons. They have helped in church, reading, leading intercession and administering holy communion - but more than that they have been an ever present place of prayer for the work of the church here.
As the convent closes and Sr. Cynthia and Sr Mary Claire move the Chiswick, I am very pleased that we wont be loosing their presence altogether - Sr. Sarah and Sr. Mary Paul are staying in the town. But we must say a 'thank you' to them for all they have blessed us with over the years and promise of our prayers for them in the next stages of their lives as we ask them to continue to pray for us and our ongoing work and mission for the Lord. A small thank you will be made following the 9.30 Parish Eucharist on Sunday 1st March
LIGHTING THE WAY
Parishes across the deaneries are being asked to put on events of their choosing culminating in the lighting of a beacon fire on Saturday 23 May, Pentecost Eve.
The purpose of asking parishes to participate in a diocese-wide beacon event is principally to celebrate and mark the launch of the new Diocesan Strategy. Whereas it is appreciated that the average person in the street will not grasp the idea of the new strategy, one of the aims of the event is to reach out to the local community as part of the mission of the parishes. To put on an event which brings in the community at large is a good place to start.
Uckfield Deanery will be gathering around the Beacon in Victoria Pleasure Ground. Bring a pic-nic or buy food from the non-profit making BBQ, games for adults and children, a time for some worship and prayers for the diocese, its life and the new strategy of thanks giving culminating in the lighting of the beacon.
The event is to mark the beginning of a new understanding and involvement on the part of the parish in the life of the diocese, via the new strategy. This will be a time, not only be fun and remembered as a great time had by all, but will also be a boost to the local church community.