Nether Heyford Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Once again, I am writing February’s letter on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year, material for this week of prayer – prepared by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland – is based on the story of St Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta. Found in Chapters 27 and 28 of the Acts of the Apostles, this is a story of peril and fear, rescue and hope. St Paul and his fellow travellers, which include the ship’s crew, and the soldiers sent to guard the apostle, found themselves battered by storms, shipwrecked and washed up on the beach. To this day, tourists to the island are taken to the spot where St Paul is thought to have come ashore, bringing with him the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The Church in Malta still celebrates this event, as the arrival of the Christian faith on their tiny island, reminding us that Christianity is not just a spiritual thing, it is rooted in real events in human history.
Back in the original story, the survivors of the shipwreck were eventually rescued and aided by local people; “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness.” (Acts 28:1-2) ‘Unusual kindness’ strikes me as a strange phrase. Kindness is not unusual. It’s shown as much today as it was in St Paul’s day. What’s unusual was that this kindness was shown to strangers and foreigners, and battered, bedraggled ones at that.
It’s easy to show kindness to people we know and like. Much harder to show kindness to people we don’t know, or don’t like. I suspect we all have work to do there! But Jesus calls his followers to show ‘unusual kindness’ telling us to love even our enemies. Such kindness sees beyond our differences and divisions and recognises our common humanity. Of course, whatever our faith, we can all show kindness; to our friends and families, and to the strangers we meet as we journey through life. We demonstrate unusual kindness by valuing and welcoming all people. We demonstrate unusual kindness by giving without counting the cost. We demonstrate unusual kindness as we love and serve others, without expecting anything in return.
At the start of this new decade, I pray that we might all aspire to show ‘unusual kindness’ to the people we meet. I pray that we might acknowledge our common humanity, build one another up, and strengthen our communities.
With every blessing,
Stephen – 01327 344436