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Our faith is a pearl of great price says Methodist chair 

Chair of the Methodist Church East Anglia District, Rev Julian Pursehouse, says our shared faith is like a pearl of great price in his Easter message.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I continue to write to you as your Pastor in a time of national crisis when perhaps, more than ever, our shared life of faith will be like a pearl of great price; something costly and precious that we are glad to possess even though the expression of this faith has to adopt new forms and patterns for the time being! 

Like many of you, it is part of my daily routine to tune into the latest Government briefing from Downing Street; I do this to remain informed and to be ready to adhere to any new directions that affect the daily routine of our lives. Last weekend Jean and I were particularly moved by the contribution of Ruth May, England’s Chief Nursing Officer, as she shared the painful news of the death of two young nurses; Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke. Both individuals leave behind young families and both of them were on the front line of caring for COVID-19 patients. It is a timely reminder to us all of the costly nature of this virus which is no respecter of age, creed or colour and also a reminder of all that we owe to those in key professions who place themselves at considerable risk but do so out of a profound desire to serve the common good!

At the beginning of Holy Week this reminds me of the story of the anointing of Jesus in Mark 14:3-9; a nameless woman, in a house in Bethany, breaks an alabaster jar of costly ointment and pours it lovingly and extravagantly over the head of Jesus. It is a startling event that is laden with symbolic meaning – at once a costly expression of love and devotion to Jesus, at another level the anointing of a future King and yet still an anointing for burial! However we choose to interpret the gesture it causes offence for some but gains the affirmation of Christ who says:

‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.’

Christ recognises and affirms this extravagant expenditure in a week when his own vocation as Messiah will require the greatest expression of self-giving love as he bears the cross, with all its shame and dereliction, and embraces suffering and death. He has not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many - his self-expenditure will lead to the renewal of life for humanity and creation. The Apostle Paul in Philippians puts it thus;

‘And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross….’ (Philippians 2:8)

In addition the Apostle Paul also suggests that this self-giving love of Christ is the very pattern of Christian discipleship and that we should seek to have the same mind as Christ in our life together. As we continue to journey through this present crisis we know that there is likely to be great suffering and pain ahead and it is very likely that all of us to some degree will be touched by these traumatic events. We thank God for Areema and Aimee and many nameless others who daily place themselves at risk for the care and well-being of others and thereby exemplify costly public service. For all of us, this is a time to keep our resolve, to keep our faith and to do all within our power to express the self-giving love of God. We shall do this through the grace of God and with the help and prayers of one another.

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