Every Tuesday around noon, you can find a group of men from Grace sat in the corner of the courtyard studying the Bible. They are one of several small groups that gather in different ways during the week across Grace Episcopal Church, and I have written about the groups before. It is the fundamental discipleship vehicle for many of us. We reckon seventy-five individuals are involved on a regular basis, often weekly. It continues to be an aspect of our common life that really impresses me.

This Tuesday, the men’s bible study reached chapter eight of the gospel of Matthew. We read about Jesus’ healing of the leper who asked Him – if you want to, please heal me. Jesus replied: “I do want to”. I have been thinking about that response. We could add – I do want to relate to you; I do want a personal relationship; I do want to be your Savior and Lord. I do want to be with you always even to the end of the ages. I do want you to give you rest.

The healing of the leper was followed by an encounter with a Roman centurion, who recognized Jesus’ authority noting that he himself was a man of authority as a leader in the Roman army. “What does it mean to be under the authority of Jesus?” was the question we were asked. One way or another we all must reach such a place of recognition and surrender. From that place Jesus calls us friends more than servants and we discover that it is to the authority of divine love that we are submitting. And we all can come to that moment of recognition in our own time and way. Some who fulfil Christ’s loving desire to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless are doing so without knowing it, as the group will see in a few months when they reach Matthew Chapter 25!

I am grateful to have the group’s permission to share the following. As usual, the bible study ended in prayer, and this week, we prayed for our children and grandchildren; for the next generation of faith. Each of us prayed for them by name as we went around the circle. Whoever said men don’t show emotion? They were not praying with us that day.

As the group prayed, I thought of the verses from Psalm 71 that provides motivation for me these days: “O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day, I tell of your wonderful works. And now that I am old and grey-headed, O God, do not forsake me, til I make known your strength to every generation and your power to all who are to come”. (Ps 71: 17-18)

Though my last Sunday with you all is September 11th, this is my last newsletter piece. I am so grateful for the opportunity to walk with you in this congregational sabbatical of reconnecting and renewing. It is striking to realize what an amazing group of people God is gathering at Grace. Historically the Christian Church has endured the many difficult times that have afflicted humanity. And as the writer to the Hebrews reminded us on Sunday “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever”. The impact of COVID and the upheavals that have followed have unevenly affected the rhythms of our family lives, including our spiritual values and practices, and has raised questions. And it remains good to seek to work through them together, in community as a people of faith. We might wonder if Jesus wants to hear us and heal us, and to all our questions, He replies “I do want to”. And we need to recognize, as people who bear our own measure of authority over our lives, His authority to do “far more than we can think or imagine” as one of our prayers says.

We have been a work in process this summer; Rev. Amy has been a work in process too. As we rejoice in the reconnection and renewing of that precious relationship with your Rector, we do so in the context of that wider and deeper relationship by which we all say: “Jesus is Lord”. Thank you again for your hospitality and warmth, for opening meaningful conversations, for indulging my retirement dream of holding many of them in the local pub and for helping me fulfill in part the prayer of Psalm 71. Rev. Amy knew me better than I knew myself, when she asked me to come and be part of Grace in the Valley; and I will always be grateful. God be with you and bless you. Help lead the Church wide body of Christ into a new day through the Spirit who is in you.

– Bishop Alan