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Letter from the Vicar (May 2017)

Dear friends,

The Easter season continues until Pentecost on Sunday 4th June. We go on celebrating all that the resurrection holds out to us as hope and promise.

But the latter part of our Easter Season, Ascension Day (Thursday 25th May) to Pentecost, has a rather different feel. On Ascension Day, we remember the resurrected Christ ascending to be with the Father, and telling the disciples to wait in prayer and preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit (which we celebrate at Pentecost), who will give us everything we need for living a life of discipleship. It is another story of absence and presence. Having experienced the desolation of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when Jesus died and was taken from them, they were then bathed in the glory of resurrection, where the risen Christ walked among them.

But Ascension Day marks a different kind of departure. Christ promises them that though in one sense he is leaving them, when the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people, he will be with each and every one of us, in a new way. It is why the period between Ascension Day and Pentecost has traditionally been a time of waiting and praying. Ascension Day remembers an event beyond our comprehension. My puzzlement over it as a child was not helped by the many paintings of it, showing a pair of feet disappearing into a cloud! Luke’s description of it in the Gospel is at best a metaphor for something that cannot be put into words: the risen Christ returning to the Father.

One of the images that strikes me most about the post-resurrection stories, is that the risen Christ still bears his wounds. Have you noticed that? Why they are not healed? How are the disciples able to touch the wounds and be invited, in the case of the disciple Thomas, to put his hands and fingers into the nail holes? There is a very important theology in that about what woundedness and wholeness and healing might be. A theology that makes light of our suffering is not adequate. Our wounds, our scars, our difficult times, cannot simply be wiped away ‘But one day, everything will be fine!’
Our wounds become part of us, and in that sense, can become precious to us. We carry them through our tears to a place where we learn to embrace them. I would never wish to offer trite consolation in the face of another’s suffering, but I am sure we all know from our own woundedness that often we learn to live with it and embrace it.  It has certainly taught me more about what real wholeness is than anything else.

It seems to me that if we are to grow into wholeness, then it has to be one that is big enough to embrace wounds, not erase them. That is the mark of true transformation. When I see pictures of the Ascension today, what I see are not the feet disappearing into clouds, but the nail holes. The wounds. The nail marks of true transformation. The suffering that holds all our suffering, being taken to the Father. The ascension of the wounded Christ tells us that at the heart of God there is a wounded person. There is comfort in that; and the promise of our own wholeness - our own salvation.

Father Andrew

Revd Canon Andrew Gough

May 2017

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CONGRATULATIONS To Peter and Anne Rendall on the occasion of their Diamond wedding anniversary (60th!!!!). Father Andrew blessed their marriage at the conclusion of the Parish Eucharist on Sunday 9th September.

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