Dear Friends

Wow! What a summer! We have basked in weeks of sunshine and dry weather. The lawns are parched, the reservoirs depleted and the hosepipe ban is on the way. Discussing what tomorrow will be like becomes less interesting, when wall to wall sunshine is guaranteed. July 15th was no exception and so if the legend of St Swithun is to be believed, the drought is set to continue a further forty days. A dry, warm school holiday, that would certainly be a welcome novelty!

Of course, not everyone is happy. For farmers 2017 was too wet and 2018 is too dry. Gardeners grumble, the pollen count rises and those with allergies and breathing difficulties find it difficult to venture out. Even vicars clad in chasuble and alb and lacking the ecclesiastical shorts that are standard issue in the tropics, have been known to mutter, “When will it end?”

The British are famed for their preoccupation with the weather, in part because it is always changing. There is a fascination with the seasons and the variety they bring, to the produce we eat, the clothes we wear and the views from our windows. My latest acquisition is a print, with four paintings of Herdwick sheep, on the same hillside, through each of the seasons – clearly the same but remarkably different. In the culinary world, to season means to add salt, to draw out flavour in food and for me the passing seasons of the year add spice to life, as they draw us ever onwards in an inexorable rhythm.

Jesus, in his parables, often used the language of growth and bearing fruit, or pruning and harvesting and the metaphor of the seasons has often been used to characterise the Christian life and even the rhythm of life itself. Rhythm is a wonderful gift but maybe it is a gift we can work at honing and fine tuning. I am often told that on the dance floor I seek to impose my own rhythm, rather than taking the cue from the music. In the rhythm of life and the Christian life in particular, we are urged to accept and work with what comes our way.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice,” St Paul tells the Philippians. He goes on to say of himself,

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”

To treasure the seasons, we must rejoice in sunshine and snow, wind and rain, summer shorts and winter overcoats, barbecues and turkey dinners, mulled wine round the log fire and Pimms on the lawn. Perhaps treasuring the seasons of life is sometimes more difficult but it is even more important. Learning to live with our disappointments as well as our successes, facing the hard times of illness and loss, the pain of disagreement, the sense of apparent failure; will not come easily. Yet our faith is built on the apparent failure of the cross, as well as the triumph of the empty tomb. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me,” said St Paul and so can we. Like him we can learn to “Rejoice in the Lord always” and to embrace the rhythm and seasons of life with a profound deep-seated contentment.

Enjoy the sunshine, make the most of it but be thankful too that it will not last forever!

Martin Keighley

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