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

e mail:

Dear Church Members and Friends, 

In this letter, some thoughts from the book entitled ‘Gentle and Lowly’ by Dane Ortland. (Copyright 2020 by Dane Ortland.) 

It is a new book but the author has set himself the task of studying the Puritans writings and then condensing their message in a more comprehensive format for us to benefit from the wisdom without struggling with archaic language and volumes of writings. It is a highly recommended book. The introduction on the dust cover says: ‘Christians know what Jesus Christ has done – but who is he? What is his deepest heart for his people, weary and faltering on their journey toward heaven? Jesus said he is “gentle and lowly in heart.” 

This book reflects on these words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferers today. One section titled ‘The Happiness of Christ’ begins, and I quote: ‘Thomas Goodwin wrote that Christ’s “own joy, comfort, happiness and glory are increased and enlarged by…..” Now how would you finish that sentence?’ 

As Christians we know intuitively that Jesus is pleased when we listen to him and obey him. But what if his very heart and joy is engaged in a new way in foibles and failures? Goodwin completes his sentence like this: Christ’s “own joy, comfort, happiness, and glory are increased and enlarged by his showing grace and mercy, in pardoning, relieving, and comforting his members here on earth.” 

The author then tells the following story: ‘A compassionate doctor has travelled deep into the jungle to provide medical care to a primitive tribe afflicted with a contagious disease. He has had his medical equipment flown in. He has correctly diagnosed the problem, and the antibiotics are prepared and available. He is independently wealthy and has no need of any kind of financial compensation. 

But as he seeks to provide care, the afflicted refuse. They want to take care of themselves. They want to heal on their own terms. Finally, a few brave young men step forward to receive the care being freely provided. What does the doctor feel? Joy. His joy increases to the degree that the sick come to him for help and healing. It’s the whole reason he came. How much more if the diseased are not strangers but his own family? So with us, and so with Christ. 

He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.’ Goodwin even goes on to argue that Christ gets more joy and comfort than we do when we come to him for help and mercy. 

When you come to Christ for mercy and love and help in your anguish and perplexity and sinfulness, you are going with the flow of his own deepest wishes, not against them….Christ’s heart is not drained by our coming to him; his heart is filled up all the more by our coming to him. 

Consider Hebrews 12. There Jesus is called “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 22:2). “For the joy.” What joy? What was waiting for Jesus on the other side of the cross? 

The joy of seeing his people forgiven. He wants us to draw strength from his love, but the only ones qualified to do that are sinners in need of undeserved love. And he doesn’t just want us to be forgiven. He wants us. How would Jesus speak of his own deepest desires? Like this: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me”. (John 17:24). This book is available at The Link bookshop, Hailsham. Coming up: 

Our Summer fair Sunday 27th June is at All Saints Herstmonceux 2-4pm.

Readings for the next two weeks:

 Thursday 17th June AM Ps 111 Matt 6v7-18 PM Ps 89 2 Sam 1 

Friday AM Ps 34v1-6 Matt 6v19-23 PM Ps 93 2 Sam 3v17-end 

Saturday Sundar Singh AM Ps 89v20-33 Matt 6v24-end PM Ps 98 2 Sam 6 

 Sunday 20th June AM Ps 133 Mark 4v35-41 PM Ps 49 Acts 10 

 Monday AM Ps 33v12-end Matt 7v1-6 PM Ps 106 2 Sam 9 

Tuesday St Alban AM Ps 15 Matt 7v6-14 PM Ps 108 2 Sam 12v1-23 

Wednesday AM Ps 105v1-9 Matt 7v15-20 PM Ps 114 2 Sam 14v25-15v12 

Thurs John the Baptist. AM Ps 85 Luke 1v57-66,80 PM Ps 119v1-32 Mal 4 

Friday AM Ps 128 Matt 8v1-4 PM Ps 119v73-104 2 Matt 13v1-23 

Saturday AM Ps 103 Matt 5v33-37 PM Ps 65 Mark 1v40-2v12 

 Sunday 27th June AM Ps 130 Mark 5v21-43 PM Ps 53 Acts 13v1-26 

 Monday Bp Irenaeus AM Ps 103v6-17 Matt 8v18-22 PM Ps 137 2 Sam 23v1-17 

Tues St Peter and Paul AM Ps 125 Acts 12v1-11 PM Ps 142 Jn 21v15-22 

Wed AM Ps 34v1-12 Matt 8v28-end PM Ps147 Mark 5v21-end