The Lay Reader's Letter (written by Gordon Gray) extends the tradition of the Vicar's Letter which has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002
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Lay Reader's Letter

June 2010

I remember vividly my last day at Dunstable Grammar School. The last exam was over, it was a scorching summer day, we all dived into the swimming pool and let off steam. Ah, freedom - to quote Alice Cooper "no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks". Weeks of freedom ahead, sweet, utter freedom. What could be better?

But before long it happened to me - just as it does to most children. Inevitably, ironically, pathetically - that feeling of freedom slowly morphed into something else, something sad and unwanted - boredom!

Parents know what I'm talking about. For a few days in early summer your kids are thrilled. But before too long you hear that classic complaint: "Mum, I'm bored. There's nothing to do." Freedom - it sounds great, doesn't it? But is it enough?

We tend to think of freedom as freedom from something that constrains or subjugates us. On the last day of school we celebrate freedom from the daily demands of education.

Certainly, freedom includes freedom from but this isn't the whole picture. There is another side to freedom, one we sometimes neglect. It's freedom for something - the freedom to be able to do things we haven't been able to do in the past. The freedom of summer holidays isn't just the freedom from school. It's also the freedom for lots of things: the freedom for getting enough sleep, the freedom for going on holiday, the freedom for doing some fun reading, and so on.

Paul is quite specifi c in his letter to the Galatians about what Christian freedom is for (Gal 5:13 & 14): You have been called to live in freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbour as yourself."

We see a marvellous illustration of how to live as free people in the life of Nelson Mandela. For decades he laboured in South Africa to bring an end to apartheid. Ultimately his revolutionary strategies got him in trouble with the government, who put him in prison. Nelson Mandela was confi ned in a South African prison - for 27 years. Finally, in 1990, aged 72, he was released.

One might suppose that after almost three decades in prison Mandela had earned a comfortable, restful retirement. But he saw freedom from prison as freedom for service. So he used his new-found freedom to work for the cause of racial reconciliation and justice in South Africa. Four years after his release, he became the fi rst African President of his country.

Now it's unlikely that you and I will ever make an impact on the world like Nelson Mandela has done, but our life in Christ should mirror his. For in Christ, all of us have been set free from the prison of sin and death, not so we can live for our own comfort, but so we can serve one another in love. The more we do this, the more our neighbours will see Christ in us and be drawn to him.

Why do I mention this? Well, by the time you read this I will have retired - I will enjoy the freedom from having to go to work every day. Can I live up to the words I have just written?

-- Gordon, Reader, St Mary's Eaton Bray

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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.