From the Rector - January/February 2017

Dear Friends,

As you may know, our magazine Editor was ill over the Christmas period, and consequently there was no January edition of the ‘Parish News’. I therefore have to say two things. The first is a very Happy New year to you all, and the second is a thankful recognition for all that Suzanne does for us and to encourage you all to pray for her and her family as she recovers.

It seems that every February I end up writing something about Lent. That then is where I will briefly start. Easter this year falls on April 16th (April 23rd being the latest possible). I am sure many of you are very aware of this fact as it may have implications for work and for things such as school holidays. In this short piece I simply want to flag up that on Ash Wednesday (1st March) there will be a joint Sung Eucharist with imposition of ashes (isn't that a lovely phrase?) at 7.00 pm at Donhead Saint Andrew. For those unable to make that there will be a said service at 10.00 am at Sedgehill. There will also be a pancake party at the The Rectory the night before (28th February from 7.30 pm)

However, I am feeling that there is a festival that gets missed in February that deserves just a little mention here, if you will indulge me!

You may all know the gospel story of the Presentation (you can find it in St Luke Chapter 2 if you have forgotten the details): Mary and Joseph come to the Temple with their baby to make the offering required under the law for a first-born son. They are greeted there by an old man and an old woman - Simeon and Anna - who recognise the significance of the young child and say mysterious and unsettling things. This child brings hope and promise, but he is also ‘destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel’. The whole point of ‘celebrating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple - often known as Candlemas - is that it points in two directions at once; back - to the Christmas story of Christ's birth; and forward - to his Passion on Good Friday.

All through life there are bit-part characters. People who pop up from time to time, who don't seem to have much of a part to play, but who, in the cosmic scheme of things, are enormously important people. People like Simeon and Anna.

Both of them are mentioned only once in the Bible and they both have only a walk-on part. But it's such an important part that neither of them have ever been forgotten. They were both elderly people. We don't know quite how old Simeon was, but we're told Anna was eighty-four and had been a widow for many years. They had something else in common too. They were both very spiritual people. Simeon was someone who was able to listen to God, for he'd already heard from God that he wouldn't die before he'd seen the Messiah. Anna never left the temple. She worshipped with fasting and prayer, night and day. When Mary and Joseph came into the temple with Jesus, both Simeon and Anna instantly knew this baby was the long awaited Messiah. There must have been hundreds of little families every year, coming to make their offerings. Why did both Simeon and Anna single out this family as being different? I think because they'd both spent a lifetime waiting upon God. Being silent before him, praising him, praying to him, listening to him, reading his word in the Scriptures. Their whole lives for many years had been immersed in God, so that when the moment came, they recognised it.

I am convinced that what will bring people to God is a genuine love for each other, inside and outside the Church, and prayer. Prayer not only for people to come to Christ, but the very prayerfulness of the community itself. If we want to be ready, if we too want to begin to recognise the holy in the ordinary, the holy in the everyday, then we need to spend regular time alone with God. And gradually, imperceptibly, as He draws us closer, we too shall begin to spot God amongst the everyday and others will see Him in us.

Yours

Richard