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VICAR'S LETTER

13 The Beeches      
Wrest Park      
Silsoe     

May, 2010      

Dear All 

The Church Calendar in May moves from Easter to Pentecost, which I have always known as ‘Whitsun’ (it probably ages me!).  In the Seasonal Calendar we move from Spring towards Summer and hopefully some warm weather after the coldest winter for some 30 years.

This year we began our Easter Service with ‘The Service of Light’.  With the church in darkness we processed the unlit Easter candle from the church door towards the altar where the candle was marked with the nails representing the wounds of Christ and then lit.  From the Easter candle, the candles on the altar were lit and everyone in the congregation had a candle lit by the taperers.  Thankfully no burnt hands or hair set on fire!  Then we sang our first Easter hymn ‘Jesus Christ is risen today – Alleluia’.

The symbolism representing Jesus, after his crucifixion on Good Friday, bringing his ‘light’ into the world by his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.  That light has now spread to some 1 billion people around the world, who will have celebrated Easter this year.  This seems to justify the work of the Holy Spirit who came to those early disciples on the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago.  “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”  (Acts chapter 2 Vs 1 - 4)

However, this is sadly not the whole story.  Our Holy Week Compline Services this year were centred on “Jerusalem - then and now”.  It is sometimes difficult to see that ‘light of Jesus’ falling on this troubled City.  For its size, Jerusalem has probably had more influence on world history than any other city of its size and still does today.

Without going off on another of my long history lessons, it is necessary to look at the history of Jerusalem, as so much of modern Jerusalem has its “foot in the past”.

For Judaism, it was King David's capital city.  Then by the time of Jesus it was the centre of Jewish religion with the 2nd Temple of Herod at its heart.  This was the temple Jesus knew as a child and to which he came on Palm Sunday.  Jesus’ prediction that it would be destroyed was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed it in AD70.  For Jews, it is their holiest city and the Western Wall (known also as the Wailing Wall) they believe is the remaining wall of that temple.

For Christians, it is our holiest city where Jesus was crucified and rose again from the dead; and where the Holy Spirit came to those early disciples.  In AD 326 Queen Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and a converted Christian, visited Jerusalem and determined the locations associated with the last days of Jesus and caused churches to be built, the most notable the ‘Church of the Holy Sepulchre’.

For Muslims, it is their 3rd holiest city, after Mecca and Medina in Arabia.  Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad was miraculously transported from Mecca in an instant at night to Jerusalem, from where he ascended to the 7th heaven where he saw God himself.  In AD 638 (6 years after Muhammad's death) Caliph Omar captured Jerusalem and the ‘Dome of the Rock’ and ‘Al Aqsa’ mosques were built on the Temple Mount.  This is supposed to be a letter not a lecture and so I will leave the story of Jerusalem there for the present.

As 21st Century Christians, we have to continue the work of Jesus.  As we heard in our Easter Sermon ‘the church’ is not our church buildings (beautiful as St Margaret's looked at Easter) but the people within it.  I believe we can win the argument against Judaism and Islam by one simple word, “peace”.  Jesus came into the world in “Peace” and left the world in “Peace”.  He then sent his Holy Spirit to those early disciples at Pentecost; not to go out and fight, but to spread the ‘good news’ of Jesus.  To tell of his teachings, his death on the cross for our sins, and of his glorious resurrection showing his power over death, not only for himself, but also for all of his followers.

On Good Friday morning, I watched a very well presented programme on television looking at the significance of the Cross.  In Medieval times, it was seen as Jesus’ victory over Satan.  Later it was seen as Jesus’ victory over death as God’s sacrificial lamb.  Finally, it was seen as God sharing in human suffering by suffering with us in our times of suffering.

Probably all are correct.  However, if we accept the latter we are morally bound to seek World Peace, so that God’s suffering is less.  We can only do this by putting pressure on Governments. However, at a local level we can show tolerance to other religions and support all Christian churches in our area.  It all comes down to Jesus’ instruction to us “to love our neighbours as ourselves”.

Let's hope we will all have a lovely summer after such a cold winter.

With all blessings

Martin.

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