Stephen’s Letter

Dear Friends,

My Grandma used to love the song “All in the April evening” and would sing it in her contralto voice whilst cooking bacon sandwiches on the mornings we stayed when we were on holiday in Didsbury, Manchester.

This song, by Hugh S. Roberton, includes the line, “I saw the sheep with their lambs, and thought on the Lamb of God.” and goes on to reflect on the great suffering, sorrow and love of Jesus.  The song describes the weariness and crying of the lambs as the Lamb of God goes “meekly to die”.  The song continues,

But for the lamb the Lamb of God
up on the hillside green,

Only a cross, a cross of wood
two stark crosses between.

This song got a new meaning for me one August evening when I was about 15 on holiday with my parents in Littondale in the Yorkshire Dales.  We were surrounded by fields of ewes and lambs who had just been separated from each other, and the bleating went on loudly all night.  At about one o’clock in the morning a man walked down the single track road nearby swearing and shouting at the top of his voice, “Sheep!  Sheep, nothing but b*** Sheep!”

The contrast between the mild April airs, the sweet meadows and the terrible suffering of Jesus for us on the cross is powerfully portrayed in my Grandma’s favourite song.  The patience of Jesus and his great love for us all is astounding.  Jesus could have looked at the crowds and shouted “Sheep.. sheep – nothing but sheep!” but he saw their helplessness and how cast-down they were and his heart went out to them – he had compassion for them (see Mt 9:36).

Jesus’ love was inextinguishable and that love continues for us all today – it is a love that never gives up on us even if we are bleating, weak and helpless. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, goes to the cross for everyone in the crowd!  So this Eastertime let us pray with Wesley:

Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart

With boundless charity divine,

So shall I all my strength exert,

And love them with a zeal like Thine,

And lead them to Thy open side,

The sheep for whom the Shepherd died.

           Charles Wesley

With love,