Easter Letter 2021

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Dear Friends

‘Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?

“They have taken my Lord away” she said, “and I don’t know where they have out him.” At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

“Woman, why are you crying?” he said, “Who is it you are looking for?

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”, (which means teacher).

This has been quite a year!

Twelve months ago, we entered the first pandemic lockdown, and were frantically working out how to do Easter and church online. I didn’t for a moment imagine we would still be doing this a year on. But in this past year, I am not alone in learning new skills, as well as learning more about myself – what is really important, and what is not.

I am acutely conscious that many people have had an unimaginably tough year; painful grief, loneliness and isolation, fear and uncertainty. Yet we have also experienced extraordinary generosity of spirit, from the heroic and compassionate dedication of key workers in all sectors, to simple acts of loving kindness in our neighbourhoods and communities. We are all profoundly changed by what has happened.

In 2019, St Matthews experienced growth in many ways; numerically, relationally and in renewed confidence and hope for the future. Praise God!

In early 2020, as our plan evolved, we embarked on our first Alpha, which was a wonderful time of going deeper into knowing and understanding God. It was also an experience of the Body of Christ at St Matthews joyfully pulling together in, invitation, welcome, hospitality, prayer, bible study, and exploration of faith, in a safe and generous environment. There was and a cross-section of ages, from students to dear Walter in his 90s, and we were almost at the end when Lockdown 1 happened.

It is good to remember back to last year. It is also good to look forward, and to encourage each other to dream new dreams for God.

As we look into Spring and Summer 2021 with a degree of hope in the rollout of vaccinations, alongside this hope we are though, conscious of a deep sense of weariness, a longing to see our families and friends again, and a need to Reflect and Recover. In the season ahead, I and my faithful colleagues shall be doing all we can to help us journey together through this, so that in time, we are then ready to Revive and Renew for the future.

This will all be done with a Foundation of Prayer.

So, I ask you to join with me and my team again, this Easter and into the summer, in re-committing ourselves to God, remembering freshly the message of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and praying to be filled by his Holy Spirit. As we do this, we shall be renewed and re-invigorated for the season to come. We cannot do this on our own, and by our own strength. But with God, ‘nothing is impossible’. (Luke 1:37Open Link in New Window)

In the bible passage at the beginning,

  • Mary was weeping at the tomb because she thought Jesus’ body had been stolen away. There are so many this year who will be weeping, because it feels as if all that is good, safe and whole has been taken from them.
  • In her grief, Mary didn’t recognise the person standing in front of her, who was her Lord. There will be many this year, who are struggling to see the way ahead.
  • But for Mary, Jesus is there, Risen, Renewed, Restored to life again—and he is here with us too, in the complexity of our lives, loving us and leading us into new life again.

Are you searching again for the presence and comfort of Jesus Christ this Easter, to help you understand purpose, direction and meaning in this confused time? The Risen Jesus stands in front of each one of us, ready to carry our burdens, fill us to overflowing with his Spirit of Hope, and travel with us through Rest and Recovery to Revival and Renewal.

Deborah and I and our family pray God’s blessing for you, your family and friends this Easter, and thank you for being our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Rev Ian Tomkins. Vicar, St Matthews Bristol.

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