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Pastoral Letter

From the Rector - The Reverend Geoffrey Smith

There is a story told about an elderly Italian man in New Jersey.

Every year he planted tomatoes in his garden, but one year he found this too difficult as the ground was too hard for him to dig it over. Previously he had relied on his son’s help but now his son was in prison.

He wrote him a letter:

‘Dear Vincent I’m feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomatoes this year. I’m just too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know that if you were here it wouldn’t be a problem because you’d be only too happy to dig it for me.

Love Papa.’

He received a reply from his son which read:

‘Dear Papa, don’t dig up the garden. That’s where the bodies are buried!

Love Vinnie.’

Early next morning, the police arrived and dug up every inch of soil but found no bodies. They apologised to the old man and left. The old man then received a second letter from his son which read:

‘Dear Papa, go ahead and plant your tomatoes now, that’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you, Vinnie.’

That story says a great deal about the power of love which is at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus gave his disciples the ‘New Commandment’ that they should love one another as he has loved them, at the Last Supper, the night before his execution. He then promised to be with them always even to the end of time.

In my story the old man came to realise that his son’s love was to be relied on, even from prison. The disciples came to see they could rely on Jesus’s love, even after his death. This was because they received the Holy Spirit who was to be with them always to strengthen, guide and reassure them just as Jesus did when he was alive with them. But Jesus’ promise at the Last Supper comes with a responsibility, that we should love one another as he has loved (and still does love) us.

For by loving one another, we experience the love of God, not from some external power giving us all big hugs, but from each other, which is where God is to be found. God did not dig up the old man’s garden, nor did the police; the love of his son dug it.