A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

Quite a few years ago, I began to attend the Christian Union meetings at school. It must have been around this time of year because it was not very long after I started going that I was invited to be part of the residential ‘weekend’ that took place during the school Easter holidays. I remember that a lot of the talk at that weekend was of people’s experience at the ‘Spring Harvest’ conference.

I soon gathered that the main speaker at Spring Harvest that year was an American, by the name of Tony Campolo. As well as general discussion of the conference, there was, also doing the rounds, a cassette tape of one of his sessions entitled, “Its Friday … but Sunday’s Coming”. The premise of the talk, and of his book of the same name, was that while we approach the Cross, with the difficult overtones of pain and suffering, on Good Friday we can take heart that Easter Sunday, with its promises of new life, joy and hope, is just a few days away.

As Holy Week and Easter fall in early/mid April this year (I class anything in the first 10 days of the month as being early; anything in the next 10 days as being in the middle and anything after the 20th of the month as being late!), March takes us to the brink, but no further. We spend the whole of the month, in the season of Lent, but don’t make it quite as far as Easter itself – a bit of a case of, ‘Its Friday …’.

Within about a year of joining the CU, I had been persuaded/ co-opted/ coerced/ bullied (delete as applicable) to join the committee, and so it wasn’t too long before I found myself actually giving the talk and speaking at the odd CU meeting. I’m not sure if it’s really true or not, but people often say that a preacher only has one sermon and that each time they speak their message basically boils down to the same thing. Certainly back in those days, I think the message of most of my CU talks, would focus upon ‘Love’.

As I write this, we have recently celebrated St. Valentine’s Day, and so the TV and radio have been full of repeated images of romance and love. A few years ago the church I was part of gave out booklets in church, with some simple actions in them for people to complete during the weeks of Lent. One of the young people, was quite scandalised when sneaking a preview of weeks to come they saw the suggestion that we could, ‘Leave a pound coin in a shopping trolley or somewhere else where it may be found’. “Now why would anyone want to do that?”, was written all over her face. Yes, why would they?

It’s no wonder they killed Jesus, because He spent his time suggesting that people do scandalous things such as this: acts of love and generosity towards neighbours and strangers alike.

Let us remember that scandal like this is not always bad, and as we reflect on the scandal of the cross this month, the scandal of God’s love for us, may we scandalise others with such acts of random kindness, that remind them, and us, of the extent of God’s love, and while it my be Friday … Sunday is coming!

God bless you all.

Revd. Andy Stand

St. Philip & St. James Parish Church Whittington, Worcs. WR5 2RQ