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Monthly Letter

The Vicarage

Today I spent a couple of hours bouldering at Kilnsey Crag. For those who don’t know what that it, it’s basically rock climbing without ropes, but not very high. It was a beautiful afternoon and I got a little distracted by the climb and as I checked beneath me I found myself a lot higher up than I had intended. It’s an unnerving experience when that happens and several thought processes begin at the same time: the inevitable quite serious ‘What ifs’ of falling kick in quickly; followed by the all-too-familiar conundrum of carrying on up into the unknown while getting further from safety, or attempting the tricky down-climb which is never as easy as it was on the way up and involves spending a lot of time leaning out over thin air and looking down into the dizzying drop. There’s a rising panic which follows, before some cool decision making and commitment to a course of action. This obviously worked since I’m still here, typing with weary and worn fingers!

I often find parallels between faith and climbing, but today I was struck, halfway up the climb, by the dizzying heights that God has called us to, individually and as a church. Quite often with faith we find ourselves wondering how we got here, clinging to God in the gravitational effects of doubts. Sometimes we might even consider taking the path downwards back to the ‘safety’ that we remember before we took the plunge and started trusting God. But faith is a gift from God, not something that depends on us, and so we keep climbing, ever trusting God for the handholds and footholds.

One of the scariest moments of our faith can be sharing it with others. We find ourselves on a small ledge with those ‘What if’ thoughts about the future of my friendship with the person I’m inviting to church perhaps, or wondering about the fall of failure if I ‘chicken out’ or get tongue-tied. Again, the temptation is to either descend from the moment, or just to say nothing – frozen and rooted to the spot. In the moment, it is hard to trust God for the words and leave my friendships in his hands, but that is the act of reaching up for the next handhold of faith.

Other moments of crisis and panic in faith come at us more often than we realise. We can find ourselves frozen by grief, or finding our grip on faith getting weaker and tired as we cling tightly but feel the effort of doing so. We can sense the temptation of just letting go and free-falling into despair. At these times, God assures us that the rock of faith is firm; it will not give way or crumble. As we feel our grip fatiguing, we discover it is really God who holds us, saying, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’

We may sometimes feel like we are alone on a ledge far from safety, but our God will never let us fall; failure will never be the end. Part of being a church family is that we are never climbing alone and we can help each other when the winds howl or our grip slackens. Together, let’s climb further in faith, leaving the ground behind and trusting God to hold us and keep us from falling.

‘Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.’