The Vicar's Letter (this letter written by Reverend Stephen Burge) has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002
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Vicar's Letter

June 2024

Reverend Stephen Burge, Associate Priest of the Church of St Mary The Virgin, Eaton Bray with Edlesborough.

As we enter June many of the young adults in our villages will have already started their GCSE, A-Level or other examinations. I'm sure that we can all remember the fear and trepidation as we entered the exam hall, armed only with a pen or a pencil, at the mercy of the exam paper. I'm sure that that brings back a lot of memories - ones that we might rather forget!

There are some people who feel that Christianity is a bit like a test, that there are a set of complicated rules and regulations that we need to follow and that we are judged according to how we have done against that list of rules. That can mean that we think of our daily lives as a challenge where we have to try and get through the day, doing exactly what is required of us, causing us to feel upset with ourselves when we fail to do or say what we ought, as well as feeling upset at the prospect of having disappointed God. But this isn't the way that I see God and I think that isn't the way that God wants us to live our lives. Yes, God does want us, and expects us, to live our lives in a certain way: showing kindness to others, welcoming the stranger, doing the right thing, and living a life that is filled with love rather than hate.

Yet, throughout his ministry Jesus teaches us that God understands that we do not always do the right thing, and when we acknowledge that we have done something wrong and say sorry to God, God will forgive us. This is the message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). In this famous story, the younger son takes his inheritance, leaves his father and then 'squandered his property in dissolute living' (Luke 15:13) - he really had done the wrong thing. Yet, when he returns to his father, not seeking more money, but just to say sorry to his father and to be around him, he doesn't get the response he expects: his father sees him on the road he 'was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.' (Luke 15:20). God does the same for all of us when we do or say the wrong thing, or fail to do or say the right thing - God meets us in our sorrowfulness, surrounds us in his love (or hugs us!), and shows us his the very core his being: love and compassion.

If Jesus were walking among us now, he might have told a very different parable, perhaps, even, the Parable of the Failed Examination: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a teacher with ten students. The teacher told his students to prepare for their exam and to revise. Nine students worked hard and revised all done, but one student put off his revision until tomorrow and then tomorrow. When the day of the exam came, the nine students were ready for their exam, but the tenth student panicked. The tenth student failed his exam and was deeply upset because the student knew the teacher was right. The student said sorry to the teacher for not doing his revision and the teacher knew that the student truly meant it, so the teacher smiled and turned the student's F into an A and the student returned home full of joy and hope for the future.

So, let's all say a prayer for ourselves, that we may recognize when we have done the wrong thing, and that we may feel the warmth of God's love for us. But let us also pray for all of those students sitting exams. We pray that they may feel less anxious, that they might find the right words, and that they do their best. We pray that God may be with them, that God may guide them, and that God may give them confidence, calmness, and wisdom. Amen.

Rev'd Stephen Burge

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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 area for these.