PASTORAL LETTER FROM MARK CHESTER 10th MARCH 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

I wonder what your attitude is toward unanswered prayer, if you’re anything like me then it could be something like this; just pray harder and longer in a dogged determination that God will answer, or with a shrug of the shoulder write it off as a bad idea anyway; my prayer life sometimes vacillates between these two extremes.

The apostle Paul also knew about unanswered prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, in this passage we can imagine Paul wrestling in prayer with God for some form of intervention in his situation but the answer that Paul receives to his prayers is probably not what he was hoping for. We don’tknow the details of how the Lord communicated with him the message ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ but we know enough to understand that this word changed him. It transformed him from someone who pleaded with God to deliver him from his weaknesses to someone who delighted in weakness. I personally can’t imagine ever actually ‘delighting’ in difficulties as Paul did but I can understand how unanswered prayer in the form of grace can transform me.

I read the following in an article which sums up what I’m trying to say this month ‘We tend to think of grace as something pleasant, but sometimes grace comes in the form of an invitation to change. This can be painful because it involves humility and a willingness to change, all human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes usand the change is painful’ (from the Veritas forum and Flannery O’ Connor)

As we move out of lockdown into what was once called ‘everyday life’ we will all have opportunities to change, as individuals and as congregations. Perhaps we will need to stop doing some things and start doing others; this could well be painful and unsettling, having an open heart and mind to the new is a daily challenge to all of us. One thing Covid has done for the church is given us time to think, to think about the whys, wheres and hows of church life. It has also given us as individuals a chance to look again and appreciate the uniqueness of everyone regardless of belief. As we move out of lockdown and begin to reconsider how we do mission may we do so with humility and a willingness to change if God so invites us.

May God bless you all,

Mark Chester

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