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“The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” is the famous opening line of L.P. Hartley’s novel, “The Go-Between”. In that novel, the sixty- something Leo Colston finds an old diary written 50 years previously when he was 12 years old; he had spent a summer at Brandham Hall in Norfolk, the family home of his school friend Marcus. The novel tells the story of that fateful time in 1900, from the perspective of the middle of what Hartley calls “this hideous century”, as Leo pieces together memories which he has suppressed during the intervening years.
It is a common human tendency to reflect on the past, and we all do it, especially when we feel we are growing older; such reflections inevitably lead to comparisons with the present and a fear of the future. During the 33 years of my ministry there have been occasions many such thoughts have occurred; during those times preaching has been difficult because of events taking place in the world, and it is difficult to know what to say: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the events of 11 September 2001, the Tsunami in the Pacific on Boxing Day 2004, the London underground bombings on 7 July 2005, and similar terrorist atrocities in Madrid in 2004, Mumbai in 2008, Norway in 2011 and in Paris in 2015. Events such as these are not just news items, they change lives and not just the lives of those who were directly affected. Although we do not always recognize it at the time, our attitudes and our patterns of behaviour are inevitably altered as a result. It is difficult to suggest what we should do or how we should change, for we do not know immediately what those changes will be: that makes us nervous and anxious about the future, and whilst we know that we must trust in God, we wish that he would make the future clear.
On the Feast of Pentecost, the disciples had been waiting for many days to see if the promise which Jesus made them, when he ascended to his Father, would be fulfilled. They did not know what the future would be; their lives had changed so often: they had been called from their tasks to follow Jesus; they had spent three long years with him on his mission, witnessing the most incredible things and hearing the Lord’s life changing words; they had been with him when he was arrested, tried and executed; they had seen him alive again, risen from the dead; they had watched him ascend to his Father; they had heard him commission them to go out into the world and preach the good news which they had experienced; what on earth would come next?
The Feast of Pentecost was a significant day. When the children of Israel had been freed from slavery in Egypt, they journeyed through the desert toward the Promised Land, and they reached Mount Sinai. On the 50th day after the Passover, the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire, and with the sound of a trumpet, and with thunder and lightning, and he gave them the ten commandments of the Law. Now, on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Redeemer from the dead, the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples in the upper room like a rushing wind and like flames of fire. This event changed them yet again. As the flames of the Holy Spirit landed on each one of them individually, so they each received the Spirit who called them to service: this recognition of discipleship convinced them that they were each called to follow the Lord and to respond to that call to mission, wherever each of them felt they were called to go. They went out, preaching the news of Jesus Christ across the known world and generally giving their lives in martyrdom. But they did this because the Spirit had also given them hope. They believed the message of Jesus, they had lived it, and since the resurrection had had that message confirmed so clearly. They were inspired and wanted to share it; now they were emboldened by the experience of the Spirit and with God beside them and with them, they went out.
The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. Our past is a foreign country and many people talk about wanting to return to normal. A wise parishioner said to me a few weeks ago, “we can’t return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place”. There is also talk about a “new normal”, whatever that may be. In any event, we shall need to be filled with the Spirit of God to go forward in this changed world and proclaim the unchanging truth of the presence of the risen and ascended Lord in all our lives.
Please do remember to pray with us especially at 8.0am and 6.0pm if you can.
The Spirit of truth lead you into all the truth, give you grace to witness that Jesus Christ is Lord, and to proclaim the mighty word and works of God; and may God bless you all.
With my continued prayers,
If we can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us:
Father Steven Kirk 01443 813246
Father Keith Hemmings 01443 830662
Sarah Steadman 01443 816276
Edward Williams-Price 07715 103273
Fiona Silverthorn 07593 858305
Message from Sarah Steadman
(reader at Holy Trinity)
St. Mark, Evangelist. Feast Day 25th April
The Gospel according to St Mark is one of four gospels in the New Testament. The gospels tell the stories of Jesus’ life, ministry and passion. The word gospel is derived from the Greek word euangelia, ‘good news’. In the context of the early church this is the good news of the salvation afforded by belief in Jesus Christ.
Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels. It can be read aloud in its entirety in about an hour and a half. The author called Mark seems likely to have been an interpreter, in the sense of translator, for the Apostle Peter. Mark wrote his gospel in Rome or perhaps somewhere in the Roman Empire in the period AD 65-75. Although Mark was not an eye-witness to the events of Jesus’ ministry, it is possible that he collected the oral traditions from someone who was an eye-witness, i.e., Peter. Mark’s purpose in writing his gospel is set out in the first verse to bring the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” to a beleaguered group of Gentile Christians living in a pagan city, probably persecuted by the Roman authorities and despised by Jewish converts to Christianity.
Mark’s gospel is a fast-paced, action-packed narrative. Jesus features in every scene except for the account of John the Baptist’s execution by Herod (6: 14-29). The story starts with a sort of Prologue (1:1-13) which introduces the characters of John the Baptist and Jesus. Then we hear of Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom in Galilee (1:14-8:30). We then take “the way” with Jesus and the disciples from Galilee to Jerusalem (8:31-10:52) to witness Jesus’ passion and death (11:1-15:47). The empty tomb is discovered in the epilogue (16:1-8), and two alternative endings follow (16:9-20).
The opening chapter of the gospel contains important statements about Jesus and his relationship with God. There is no birth narrative and there are no incidents from Jesus’ childhood to provide a background to Jesus’ history. Jesus is introduced in v.10 simply as Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. He goes to John to be baptised but as he rises from the River Jordan there is a clear and unequivocal demonstration of his relationship to God. The heavens open and God’s voice is heard “you are my Son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased”. Mark’s Christology is clearly expressed here, Jesus is the only Son of God, truly divine, at one with his heavenly Father and lead by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ teaching focuses on the kingdom of God. The prologue of the Gospel introduces this theme: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe in the good news” (1:15). For Mark, Jesus is the embodiment of the new Kingdom of God. Jesus will break down the wall of sin which separates us from God and herald a new era of peace, love and justice. How can this Good News be understood today? Mark presents us with a loving and accessible saviour who brings healing and forgiveness to all who seek him out. When a rich young man asks Jesus “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:17-22) Jesus looks on him lovingly and instructs him to “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” This is a challenge for us all who live in affluent circumstances. If we are self-proclaimed Christians, can we follow Jesus’ teaching and sacrifice our standard of living to give more opportunities and resources to the poor and disadvantaged?
Jesus cares for the physical needs of the crowds that follow him. There are two mass catering episodes in Mark’s gospel, the first sees Jesus feed five thousand people (6:35-44), the second a crowd of four thousand people (8:1-10) in both examples Jesus has compassion on the crowd. He offers such an abundance of food that there are full baskets left over. Jesus doesn’t qualify his charity, he doesn’t means test or judge whether people are deserving of his help.
Jesus restores sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, performs exorcisms and even restores the dead to life. He performs these works of power as demonstrations of God working through him, not for his own glory. He teaches with authority in the synagogues, but he also has the ‘common touch’. He sits down to eat with sinners and tax collectors and people bring their children to him to bless. He undermines the status of the scribes and pharisees by pointing out their hypocrisy and their love of pomp and outward display and then raises up the poor widow who gives all she has to the temple treasury.
This enduring story is what Mark offers to us today. A never-ending story of God’s Kingdom breaking through into our broken world. We have a saviour in Jesus Christ who has experienced our condition and is on the side of the poor, the outcast and the rejected of society. He gave up his life for our salvation. We do not know what Mark’s motivation was in writing his gospel, he certainly did not write it for an audience of scholars or commentators. He wrote it for fledgling Christians to inspire and support them in their new way of life. Followers of Jesus today are still in need of that inspiration and support and it is a testament to the power of Mark’s gospel that it has become part of the church’s tradition, its liturgy and its daily life of prayer.
Yours in Christ,
Sarah Steadman (Reader).
Collect for the Feast of St Mark
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness
of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded
in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
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