Stacks Image 49

Pastoral Letter

From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith

1 February 2019

It may or may not surprise you to know that cola and other much frowned upon drinks these days, were first sold not as flavoured fizzy drinks, but as patent cures. Much altered from their original form they started life as part of a family of medicines, that along with products such as Kilmer’s Swamp Root and Clarke Stanley’s Snake Oil, have a long and not-particularly-noble history with more than a whiff of the fairground about it. In some cases, they contained ineffective, misleading or even poisonous ingredients, and others were so full of powerful drugs that they must have seemed to offer a miraculous result. Swamp Root and Snake Oil may have had their day, but patent cures drew crowds. They were accessible, came with tempting claims and met a deep need for relief from the aches and pains, sorrows and heartaches of ordinary life.

It could be said that there was more than a hint of the snake oil salesman about Jesus in the early days of his ministry. He drew crowds of the needy and curious as he made his way through Galilee, casting out demons and curing the sick. Who was to say that this was not just another medicine man?

In our own world today we endure much from a society over populated physicians of all kinds. Sometimes even our best medical physicians are unable to provide adequate answers and we end up on a roller coaster ride of hope and despair. Others – not so medical – tell us we must lose weight, buy an iPhone, eat yoghurt, spend less time on Facebook, flavour everything with turmeric, buy fairtrade, spend more time with the children and use the car less. Each day the papers contradict what they were advising us to do or eat the previous week.

What made Jesus stand out, as a careful reading of the Gospels will show, is that what he gave wasn’t so much physical health or long life but inner healing and peace, love and forgiveness, acceptance as a valued and loved human being. These are the qualities which when possessed enable us to cope with whatever else life has in store for us. In the end the crowds drifted away from him because the fairground quality of his ministry was found to be lacking. But those who had received his ministry found their lives changed and so he really deserves the title the true physician.