A Pastoral Message from Revd Gill Newton – Sunday 5th April

Dear friends

As I write to you today, we find ourselves on the edge of Holy Week, poised to share in the journey of Christ to the cross.  But, of course, this year, we find ourselves sharing in this experience in a very different way.  All our usual patterns and practices of journeying together through Lent and Holy Week have been stripped from us as a result of the need for social distancing and isolation.

The landscape that we are now seeking to navigate is one that looks very different and unfamiliar and for many of us it may feel dark, barren and frightening.  We feel as if we are in a strange land.  We don’t have the words to make ourselves understood.  We don’t know where to find what we are looking for.  We haven’t got all the usual landmarks by which to locate ourselves.  We are all feeling our way.

As we arrive at Palm Sunday, we call to mind the fact that Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowds with the praises of the people ringing in his ears.  But perhaps as we arrive at this point in our journey through Lent, with all that is going on around us in the world and in our own personal context, we may not necessarily feel like joining in with the cries of “Hosanna!”

That feeling takes me to Psalm 137 where the writer asks the question “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign (strange) land?”  When the people of Israel first arrived in Babylon everything about the place was strange.  It was a place of torment and despair – how could they possibly sing in such a place?  How could they possibly sing when everything around them felt so strange and unfamiliar?

Perhaps one of the most striking things about this Psalm is that the Psalmist doesn’t then give us the answer to that question.  In order to discover the answer we have to look elsewhere in scripture, in books like Ezra and Nehemiah and Esther and there we read about Daniel and Nehemiah and Ezra who had remained grounded in their lives of devotion to prayer and God’s word and were still able to sing the Lord’s song.

So, how do we sing the Lord’s song in the strange land in which we find ourselves?  Scripture encourages us to see that it is by continuing to focus on the promises we find in God’s word and by staying in communion with God through our prayers.  For there we find comfort, there we find strength, there we find a depth of love which we can find nowhere else.  There we find reason to sing “Hosanna” which has become a song of praise but which at its root is a cry for salvation and rescue.

May we, even in this strange landscape that we currently inhabit, find reasons to continue to praise God, but also never be afraid to cry out to the one who in Christ offers us salvation and security in these challenging times.

Gill Newton

District Chair