I am writing this article for Focus enjoying the sun that has been beating down on us for the last couple of weeks. It has seemed like a long time coming, but now it is here I have been trying to make the most of it: doing all those jobs that have needed doing in the garden, enjoying some walks in the local countryside, as well as just sitting and enjoying simply being able to relax in the garden without the fear of a sudden cold, wet wind.
The recent sun reminded me of an animated version of one of Aesop's Fables that I was shown when I was young. In the Fable of the Wind and the Sun, the wind and the sun decide to have a competition to see who is the strongest. To prove this feat they agreed that the winner will be whoever can get a man walking in the countryside to take off his coat. The wind goes first and blows and blows and blows, but to no avail - however hard the wind blows, the tighter the man holds on to his coat. The sun then has his go, and the sun makes the weather warmer and warmer, until the man eventually takes off his coat. The moral of the fable is that
In the Bible the sun is sometimes used as an image of God. In the Book of Psalms its says 'For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favour and honour. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.' (Ps 84:11) And in the less well-known prophecy of Habakkuk, the prophet describes the glory of God by saying: 'The brightness was like the sun; rays came forth from his hand, where his power lay hidden.' (Hab 3:4). Before the electric lightbulb, the sun provided light for people to see and to work; the dark of the night was, in contrast, something to be feared. The sun also provides warmth - something that is particularly important in the Near East, where the contrast in temperature between night and day can be incredibly large. The feeling of warmth is one that is also associated with comfort and security, which is what I think the prophet Habakkuk is also alluding to, God's power is not simply forceful like the wind, but it also provides us with comfort and security. Indeed, God, like the sun, lights the path for us showing where we should go; God, like the sun, provides us with the light of hope that dispels fear and worry; God provides us with the light of the spirit that brings us comfort and security.
There is also a question and a challenge for us too. Are we like suns to those around us? Do we provide others with warmth, direction, and security? Or are we like the wind in Aesop's fable? Do we try and get out own way, at whatever the cost? In one of his parables Jesus calls us to be like a bright city on a hill, and like candles, providing people with hope, with guidance and with love. Then, and only then, can we 'shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father' (Matt 13:43). I hope that over the summer, as we all enjoy some nice sunny weather, we can all take some time to think about how 'sunny' we are to others, and about those things that we can do to provide warmth, security and confidence to all those around us.
Rev'd Stephen Burge
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.