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Thought for the week - 15 May

Every couple of months since Covid rules have allowed the retired clergy in the Deanery have been meeting at Salut in Bispham for coffee or lunch and fellowship.

Of course, amid the hilarity there has been some discussion about the way the Diocese of Blackburn and the Church of England in general are being run with unflattering comparisons with the past.

At our most recent meeting, Dr Simon Cox, retired Rector of Bispham whose washing I can see from our back garden, was telling us the story of a new pastor coming into a church somewhere in America. The congregation members were waiting eagerly to see what sort of preacher he would be.

On his first Sunday he stood up and announced his text:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love on another just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”

The people listened intently. The next Sunday he went to the pulpit and announced the text: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”.

And so he carried on for the next two weeks. At first people were puzzled or wondered whether they had made a mistake in appointing him. But then they noticed that people were talking to one another more and helping one another in all sorts of practical ways.

They were acting not just as members of a church congregation but members of the Body of Christ.

Eventually somebody asked him whether he preached from any other text –

“Yes” was his reply. “Next Sunday my text will be: Love thy neighbour as thyself.”

It may be a made-up story and you may have heard variations of it. However, there is a very similar story related by St Jerome, who lived in the 4th to 5th century. Known mainly for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin – The Vulgate – and his commentary on the Bible, he relates this story about the writer of today’s Gospel.

It’s from Jerome’s Commentary on Galatians 6:10

The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worth of John: “Because it is the Lord’s commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient”.


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