This summer has been dominated by pictures of a missing child. Ever since her disappearance was first reported, we have been surrounded by pictures of Madeleine McCann, with her playful eyes and mischievous grin. We may have been angered by the excessive journalistic speculation about this tragic case and the intrusive reporting, but no-one can deny how those pictures have seized our hearts. None of us knows the child, and yet we feel for her, and we are gripped by a deep sense of tender compassion for her. When something terrible happens to a child, we all feel a love for the victim, however hard it may be to explain our feelings rationally.
Our reaction to a lost child can give us a window on to Godís love for us. If we are able to feel like this for a child we have never met, how much more does God feel for us? Jesus told many stories which underline Godís love and compassion for us. There was the story of the shepherd who found that one of his flock had gone missing, and he left all the rest behind to go and search for the lost one, and came back, full of joy, when he had rescued it. And there was the story of the father who welcomed his prodigal son home, delighted to have him back safe and sound after all his misdemeanours and stupidity. Jesus told us these stories to show us how much God loves us, and to what lengths He is prepared to go to bring us back when we stray from His ways.
Of course, Jesus did not show us this only in words: his whole life was a demonstration of Godís love expressed in human terms, terms that we can relate to directly and understand. In the gospels we see Jesus caring for the sick and the outcast, glad to be in the company of folk that respectable people shunned, reaching out across barriers to the neglected and the despised. Supremely, we see Jesus embracing the terrible ordeal of crucifixion for us. ďGod so loved the world ÖĒ Ė we look at the cross and are overwhelmed by the reality of divine love, a love that embraces all of us.
We are all precious to our heavenly Father Ė our care and concern for one little girl who disappeared in a holiday resort in Portugal helps us to understand how God can love each one of us individually and how He acts to save us. And how do we respond to that amazing love? Can we love a little in return, and show our gratitude by extending our love towards other people? The Church exists as a community of people who recognize that God loves them and want to try to show their love for Him by living in a way which pleases Him. That is the start of Christian discipleship: our feeble response to Godís great love for us. But we can encourage one another by coming together, and you will always be welcome to come and share the life of your local Church, where Sunday by Sunday we celebrate Godís love and goodness and enjoy one anotherís friendship. Why not give it a try?
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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 Vicar's Letter area for these.