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Pastoral Letter

From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith

1 July 2019

In the last stages of her life Lady Nancy Astor awoke briefly to find all her family gathered around her bed. Offering what were to be her last words she asked “Am I dying or is this my birthday?” When the poet Walter De La Mere lay seriously ill he was asked whether he would like some fruit or some flowers. His reply was “Too late for fruit, too soon for flowers.” One of Winston Churchill’s final comments was: “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” And famously the writer Oscar Wilde’s last words are said to have been: “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

Whether it’s the final phrase before death, or before some other kind of separation, the last words we hear someone say are important, especially if the words come from a loved one, and when this is the case they are much more likely to be very meaningful rather than flippant.

The last words Jesus spoke to his apostles were a promise. He promised them that although he was to leave them now he would nevertheless, in a different sort of way altogether, remain with them until the end of time.

This was so important for them because they were then to embark on their huge mission of bringing the Christian message to the rest of the world. This mission, for 12 uneducated fishermen, was enormous and fraught with all sorts of difficulty and personal danger. It ended for most of them with their deaths. Yet what they did eventually changed the known world. Throughout all they had to go through they persevered being upheld and strengthened and guided at all times by the spirit of Christ who remained with them.

Our life’s journey will have its ups and downs yet Christ gives the same promise to all who put their faith in him; that he will remain with us come what may.

We may not live up to all that we promise or say but the important thing is that Christ is always true to his word. What I have always taken great note of during my ministry is the number of people I have come across in very difficult and sometimes tragic circumstances who quite contrary to expectations have been given the courage and inner strength to cope with whatever is happening to them, even when the outcome is bleak.

He is always true to his word and our comfort is in this. For our part, we need to try and always be true to our word,
both to God and to our neighbour.