Pastoral letter from Richard Steven, The Rectory, Herstmonceux Tel 01323 833124

e mail:

Dear Church Members and Friends, 

How is your soul doing? Soul is not a word we use much these days, but the soul is the vital part of us that we can neglect to our peril. Jesus said “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26) 

We live in a very materialistic world where focusing on material things and ignoring our soul is a great danger to us all. The word soul in the Greek language is Psyche and the modern use of it is all around us. The word psyche is the equivalent used by those who are called Psychologists and Psychiatrists, that is, trained people who help others in the way they think, feel and decide things in their lives, and the age we live in is just fascinated by psychology and mental well being. 

Dr James Fisher a psychiatrist who carried out research into the positive qualities that make for good mental health said “ I dreamt of writing a handbook that would be simple, practical, and easy to follow, it would tell people how to live- what thoughts and attitudes and philosophies to cultivate and what pitfalls to avoid in seeking good mental health. And quite by accident I discovered that such a work had been completed – the Beatitudes.” 

This was his conclusion after close to 50 years' experience working in the field of mental and emotional problems. These eight Beatitudes are to be found in St Matthews gospel chapter five beginning at verse three. These verses have also been called the Declarations of Blessedness or the Beautiful Attitudes. These attitudes if understood and adopted fully will lead us to have the best and most contented kind of life. It is only by studying these verses carefully that I have grown to understand them over time, little by little. They are easy to read and can be learnt off by heart quite easily, but their deep meaning and the living of them takes careful consideration and practice. 

Lets take a look at the first one. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? The poor are people who are dependent on others, spiritual poverty here means recognising that in ourselves we are spiritually poor or bereft. We are all dependant on God for our needs, especially spiritual needs. And if you and I are receptive to Him, God will give us the riches of his eternal realm or Heavenly Kingdom. So the first prescription from Jesus for inner happiness or blessedness and inner contentment is calling out to God and seeking to get his help. 

There is also a clearly implied warning here. Both the Bible verse at the start of this letter and this Beatitude indicate that unless we take the advice of Jesus regarding care for our souls we are in great danger of losing our souls and not inheriting God's heaven. I am sure that there are very many good Psychologists to give us great advise and who can sort out many problems of the soul, but God is the creator of our souls, good psychology should point us towards Him, the only one who can save and restore our souls, which is our greatest need. 

Yet another Beatitude found elsewhere but very much in line with the one above is when Jesus said to his friend Thomas ‘Blessed are those who have not seen me but yet have believed’. 

An SOS prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I cannot find lasting salvation and happiness through my own efforts, but only through you. I come to you for your saving help. Amen 

Readings for the next two weeks:

Thursday 15th July AM Ps 105 Matt 11v28-end PM Ps 78 Luke 12v1-34 

Friday AM Ps 116 Matt 12v1-8 PM Ps 82 Luke 12v35-end 

Saturday AM Ps 136 John 12v14-21 PM Ps 89 Luke 13 

 Sunday 18th July AM Ps 89 Eph 2v11-end PM Ps 73 Luke Acts 16v6-end 

 Monday AM Ex15v1-6 Matt 12v38-42 PM Ps 98 Luke 14v1-33 

Tuesday AM Ps 105 Matt 12v46-end PM Ps 104 Luke 15 

Wednesday AM Ps 78v17-31 Matt 13v1-9 PM Ps 106 Luke 8v1-3 

Thurs St Mary Mag. AM Ps 42v1-10 John 20v1-2,11-18 PM Ps 108 Mark 15v40-end 

Friday AM Ps 19v7-11 Matt 13v18-23 PM Ps 114 Luke 18v1-14 

Saturday AM Ps 50 Matt 13v24-30 PM Ps 119v1-37 Luke 9v46-56 

 Sunday St James AM Ps 126 Matt 20v20-28 PM Ps 94 Mark 5v21-end 

 Monday AM Ps 106v19-23 Matt 13v31-35 PM Ps 119v145-end Mk 10v32- 

Tues AM Ps 103V8-12 Matt 13V36-43 PM Ps 126 Luke 19V1-28 

Wed AM Ps 99 Matt 13V44-46 PM Ps 136 Luke 19V29-44