Vicar's Letter

Dear friends,
We know something’s wrong, don’t we? Sometimes we all get those moments when at the heart of who we are, we just know, deep, deep down, that all is not well. If you are anything like me, however, that feeling doesn’t often get time to travel any further than my head… certainly, I don’t give it time to travel to my heart. There’s a true saying that goes something like… there is head knowledge… and there is heart knowledge. In other words, we can know something intellectually, without that knowledge ever affecting our heart, or the way we live out our lives. For those of us trying to live out our lives following Jesus, this can be a very real issue.
This problem can be especially relevant for those of us who attend church. We go to church for years, some have been embraced by the church their whole lives. So they know what the Bible says about various subjects, even though they may not be able to quote chapter and verse. Yet sometimes much of that knowledge remains head knowledge, never getting the chance to become knowledge of the heart.

This year, as I was pondering about Lent and how Christians can use this precious time in the church's calendar to prepare ourselves for the great celebration of Easter, around the same time, I found myself reading the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians… and for some reason, it stayed with me, even though I couldn’t quite see what God might be saying to me about Lent and Easter. Perhaps you’d like to break off and make yourself a cuppa now, then come back and read this passage for yourself?

Ephesians 5:21-33
21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Saviour. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind - yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
Well, what you might ask, has that to do with Lent or Easter? It’s amazing how God sometimes reminds you of things you’ve come across in times past. This was just such a time. About a week or so after reading that passage, I came across some notes that I'd written a while ago, about an island in Indonesia that I had read about.
It seemed that on this island when a man wanted to marry a woman, it was the custom to pay her family a price… and the price would be paid with cows. If the woman in question was deemed to be exceptional, the price could be anything up to five cows! Five cows then were the price for a really first-class wife.
The article went on to tell the story of a man who paid this enormous price of five cows for a woman who was considered quite unexceptional, much to his neighbours’ amusement. But the man's attitude was that this woman was worth it to him, and that, knowing that five cows had been paid for her, she would be able to hold her head up high and act like a five-cow woman.
And I suppose this was where God was leading me… during this Lent, perhaps we can store this story away and think about how, in His Son, God has given not mere cows but Himself (v. 25), and it is that sacrificial act that enables the church to be the bride she should be; holy and radiant (vs 26/27). God cares for the church (v 29) and loves her as Himself; indeed, they are united just like a husband and wife are called to be (v 31). Called to be a sign to all around, of the loving and caring nature of God.
Like the Indonesian woman, the church has yet to live up to this picture Paul paints. Yet God knows that when we know in our heart that we are valued so much, this heart knowledge should make it possible for us, as individuals and together as the bride of Christ, to live in confidence and allow God to work His changing power in us (v 27). When we really know our true value in God’s eyes, no longer will we feel the need to push ourselves forward… leaving us free to submit to each other (v 21), as well as to God.
A Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace. Your forgiveness is so good, that I struggle with believing it at times.
Thank You for rescuing me from myself and giving me Your Holy Spirit.
For Your love is better than life itself. Amen.
Your friend in Christ,
Rev Canon Vince Fenton