A Letter from Bewcastle – April 2023

Dear Friends,

Lambing Time. This exhausting, exhilarating, seemingly endless period of tiring days and wakeful nights. Blood, afterbirth, mucus, straw. Byres full of lambs crying and ewes softly bleating. Everything throughout the rest of the year finds its fulfilment in these weeks. They are the climax of the farming year.

But not everyone involved in the lambing enjoys working with sheep. It seems to me that generally, there are two types of farmer – those who love working with stock; and those who would rather be working with tractors and machinery. The first tend to have no interest in machinery, other than as a necessary tool to get a job done, but delight in caring for and working with the animals, understanding their behaviour and learning their idiosyncrasies. The second tend to find animals a lot of unpredictable trouble, and would rather spend their time on something logical and practical that they can understand and fix. Of course there are some who understand and enjoy both. Then again, there are others who enjoy neither and struggle with the daily grind.

And then there are the rest of us who aren’t farmers, but who live among them, seeing the fruit of their work as they manage the land around us. We see the first crop of lambs released out into the fields and, whether farmer or no, it fills us with joy to see the young ones springing up into the air, or racing round the outside of the field. They remind us that life can be good, and that we, too, were once young and full of energy!

I guess its time I said something about God. After all, it is Easter and this is the parish letter! Trouble is that a lot of people turn off when they think the ‘religious bit’ is coming. ‘No, I wouldn’t call myself religious’ is the almost universal response when I talk to young parents and prospective godparents wanting their new child baptized. And it’s the same with most older folk as well, especially men. It’s not so much that we don’t believe in God, just that we don’t ‘know’, and it all seems pretty irrelevant to daily living anyway.

Which is strange, really, when you think about it. I mean almost everyone believes in ‘love’ and ‘caring’ for someone dear to you. Most people believe in honesty and integrity, and are kind towards others. But all these characteristics are just reflections of the One who made us. They don’t come from anywhere else. Certainly not from any theory of ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. No, they are traits in every human heart and are derived from, and dependent upon, the one who created us. And in our hearts we all believe in them, recognising them as good and properly human. Just as we do the joy we feel when we see a field full of lambs.

It’s just our heads that get in the way. We aren’t very good at thinking things through properly. If we did, we’d see, very straightforwardly, that we’re all ‘religious’ deep down inside. Even the most stubbornly grumpy of us! We do really believe in goodness.

So, yes, I am going to talk about God, because, actually, I believe in every one being made in God’s image. I believe in each one of you, that kindness and love reside in the depths of your heart. Our struggle, then, is to allow that kindness and love to always govern the way we behave and the decisions we make. Church is just the place we come to admit we screw it up, say sorry to God, and ask for his help in trying again.

But, for some, that does mean overcoming our pride. That pride that says we are ok and we don’t need to say sorry, or need any help from anyone. That would be to show weakness, and we can’t do that, can we. What might other people think?

And that’s how we come to Easter. Because it was exactly that pride that nailed Jesus to the cross. ‘Who do you think you are to show us how we should live?’ And the nails are driven home. But his arms remain open wide in welcome to all who will come. So come. Even if it means sneaking in the back of the church when no-one’s looking. This is Easter – the day of New Beginning. Try the outdoor sunrise service at 6am!

Your Friend and Priest,

Robert

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bewcastlehouseofprayer.org.uk/a-letter-from-bewcastle-april-2023/

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