Rector's Letter May 2021 

They think it’s all over....it is now!  So said Kenneth Wolstenholme when England won the Football World Cup in 1966.  And over that Passover weekend around 2 millenia ago, I bet the thought that it was all over was in many people’s minds and with differing emotions.
The scribes and Pharisees glad that Jesus was dead, that they could relax now that this revolutionary preacher was no more.
Pilate glad that a political disaster had been averted, but feeling disquiet that he had done the wrong thing. Mary distraught that her son had died and confused because surely the angel who spoke to her 33 years before couldn’t have got it wrong...The disciples upset, confused, anxious, angry even, thinking that 3 years had come to nothing. All thinking that it was over and then it was, but in a way none could have anticipated, despite the fact that Jesus had told them ahead of time that this must happen.  Because, when humanity receives news we don’t want to hear we are quite good at blocking it out, particularly when it is something we don’t understand. 

We’re a strange lot, humans, because our emotions don’t catch up with events and so their emotions on that day would have vacillated from grief to joy and back again as their minds struggled to process what they were experiencing. I think we are the same at the moment: our bodies have been living for too long with stress hormones.  We are tired, weary, exhausted from the uncertainty, constant changes, and monotonous requirement to stay at home, and for many there have been extra workloads and constant demands which have stretched our abilities and possibly our patience.  Our eyesight has suffered from having to communicate over electronic devices, our teeth and other medical ailments have had to be ignored.  We haven’t seen friends and family for months.   We have been, or are, mourning the loss of friends and family, the loss of income or jobs, the loss of health, or a new start, or a baby, the loss of over 12 months of living as we did before.

Today we are celebrating Easter, when Christ broke all the accepted norms.  When everyone thought it was all over, the anxiety and fears, or the hopes and aspirations, and suddenly it was but in a way they would never have anticipated: because Christ turned logic on its head.  The Saviour didn’t ride in on a big horse with a sharp sword and slay the enemy.  Instead he died, he gave his life for us, for those who abused and scorned and beat and spat at and crucified him. .. and he rose, victorious, having defeated sin and death forever.

We haven’t lost a year of life, we have merely had to live it very differently.  It’s true that we have lost the opportunity to celebrate milestones or see friends and family but, in so doing, we have had other opportunities that wouldn’t have been afforded to us.  Some doors have been shut to us, but in the process others have opened and we have enjoyed unexpected bonuses. Which brings me to my theme for Easter this year - the butterfly.  Earlier this year, Ray and Amanda’s lifegroup decided that it would be really nice to give a bunch of flowers to each and every house in the parish during Lent.  Something to show people that we are their church, that they are in our parish, and that we love them.  A small gift to brighten their days and to show that they are loved, they are important, they are remembered... it came before the PCC where we realised this caused a logistical problem so, instead, with every card to every household in the parish and to everyone on our electoral roll, we sent a seed embedded butterfly.  The paper is recycled so it is an environmentally friendly gift which is important because, if we have learned anything over this last year, environmental change is possible if the desire is there.  The seeds will, whether planted on a windowsill or in the garden, hopefully provide a beautiful gift that will brighten many days if not months ahead.  And the shape, a butterfly, is so pertinent.

Caterpillars are, to a gardener, quite honestly a nuisance.  They can wreak havoc, both in the damage done to the plant and in the disease because of all their droppings.  If they remained as caterpillars they would not help except in providing food for some birds: all they seem to do is eat and excrete and crawl around and, depending on the species, kill trees and provoke allergic reactions in humans.  But, and it’s a big BUT, as butterflies or moths they are pollinators which are vital in the production of food.  What is, apparently useless and a drain on resources, becomes a huge benefit when, because of a prompt, they go into a chrysalis phase and are transformed.
A great metaphor for Christianity.  Although please note that I am not saying that everyone who is not a Christian is a useless, devouring, excreting, allergy-inducing, potential killer.  But, being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and a call to follow Christ, should mean that, like a butterfly, we become pollinators, helping things come to fruition.  Whether that is in displaying the fruits of the Holy Spirit as shown in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and so, through that transformation furthering the Kingdom of God.  Or in using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help further the Kingdom of God.   Because Christians find their purpose in and are commissioned to, continuing Christ’s ministry and mission.  Not because we have to do so to earn our way to salvation, but because we are inspired and want others to know the peace and joy and acceptance and love.

Christ said, in John 14:12 that his followers would do even greater things than he had.  Christ, after his resurrection appeared to the disciples in a body that had the wounds from the cross but was subtly altered.  We have, like the caterpillar who crawls off to a safe space to spin that chrysalis, already responded to that prompt to transformation – even though it won’t be fully realised until after Christ returns.  But you might have stalled because of a lack of willingness to change, or a looking back to the past when you munched leaves, rather than looking forward to a future of sipping nectar.

Let us decide to make Easter 2021 a turning point when we follow Christ more closely, and respond to  the promptings of the Holy Spirit, rather than to the fickle devices and desires of our own hearts.  Because if there is another thing we have learned in the last 12 months, it is that life is uncertain and fleeting and that we cannot of ourselves add even another day to our own lives.  And I don’t know about you, but I long to see those who are walking in despair and depression, those who are mourning, those who are confused and anxious and unsure, and those who are relying on the things that will kill them, come into God’s Kingdom and find healing and wholeness through God’s transforming power.

Hallelujah, Christ is risen: He is risen indeed: hallelujah

You might like to pray the Butterfly Intercessions  which were written for our Easter Sunday Live Service at The Orchard by Greg, Claire, Ella and Ben Mills

Think about the incredible stages of a butterfly’s life. Think about how much potential it begins with and the wonderful creature it becomes. Lord, let us be like the butterfly. Help us to recognise our ability to change and let us be thankful for how we have adapted this year coping with the pandemic. Help us to seize appropriate opportunities and moments of learning and lead us towards our vision and God-given potential. Let the love for one another that has emerged through these troubled times endure and may we move forward stronger in hope, community and understanding for one another and enable everyone to reach their maximum potential in this wonderful world you have given us.  Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Think of the beauty in a butterflies wings. The vivid colours and intricate patterns make these insects a wonder to behold. They are fragile and perfect, like so much of the world around us. We live on an amazing planet and God has asked us to take care of His precious world. As a church we have a part to play in responding to God’s call to be stewards. Let us pray that we will be determined in our care, responsible in our nurturing and dedicated to working out how we can make positive changes to care for all that God had given us. Let our prayers enlarge our hearts, inspire our thinking and move us to action. Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Think how butterflies flit around in the air. They hover and swoop and tumble, they bob and weave and twist and turn. In flight they are as God made them to be. Let us pray that we can use our energies to take risks. That we feel empowered to tumble toward the needy, swoop straight to those in need, twist and turn toward people who need our support. Lord, we pray your blessing on the recently bereaved, your comfort for those sick or in pain and your hope for those waiting news of medical results, exams, interviews or who are worried about the future. We thank you for the selfless dedication of our doctors and nurses and we pray your blessing of love, peace and calm on these wonderful people.  Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Have you heard of Edward Lorenz? You may have heard his famous phrase about chaos theory: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”. The butterfly effect suggests that a small change can make much bigger changes happen; one small incident can have a big impact on the future. Let us pray simply that we can make those tiny changes that can bring about incredible impact. Let us ask ourselves – “How well did I do at revealing Jesus this week to the people you put around me?  Where did I fail to do that? Is it possible that every single thing we’ve ever experienced, good or bad, wonderful or awful, has the potential to bring us not just individually closer to God, but brings us microns closer to bringing God’s heaven here on earth? Let us pray that each and every one of us finds the courage to trust in the Lord as we seek to make the world a better place, one butterfly flutter at a time. We may at times be struggling with distractions but sometimes, for some moments, may we find the joy and reward of floating on grace.  Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer
I pray that you may welcome God’s transforming work in your life over the coming year. 

With love in Christ, Susie

Deborah Mathews, 11/02/2021