Sunday 7 October 2012

April Jones – tears and prayers for her family and community

A special Sunday service has been held at St Peter's Church in Machynlleth, Powys today in remembrance of missing April Jones.

It is almost a week since the five-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, disappeared while playing near her home in the town and police are now doubling their efforts with 100 specialist officers becoming involved in her search.

Meanwhile Mark Bridger, 46, has been charged with murder, child abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice and is due before magistrates in Aberystwyth on Monday.

A procession of more than 700 people, many wearing pink ribbons today walked slowly through the Welsh town towards the church and hundreds gathered at the Bryn-y-Gog estate from where April was abducted last Monday evening.

Reverend Kathleen Rogers opening the service said, ‘We cannot bring little April, our sweet and innocent little girl, home as we had hoped. But our hope has now been moved on to sure and certain hope that she is in the arms of Jesus.’

I know that many who have felt this tragedy deeply are praying for April’s parents Coral and Paul, for the police still searching and for all those part of the community in Machynlleth as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened.

Last weekend we were ourselves at the wedding of a good friend in Cardigan, West Wales, just down the road, with no inkling of what was about to unfold just a few miles away.

My thoughts over the last week have been returning to one of the hymns we sang at that wedding last Sunday.

‘In Christ Alone’, is a rich reminder of the assurances that we cling to at such times – that God the Father, understands personally what it is to have a child betrayed and abducted, that God the Son has walked this earth as a human being suffering the worst this world has to offer, and that God the Spirit is always present with us in all our trials and tribulations offering comfort, strength and hope.

On Friday, at the RCGP conference in Glasgow, I took time out to see my favourite painting, Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ (left) at the Kelvingrove Museum and to be reminded of these timeless truths.

There are few things more tragic than the death of a child, especially in these circumstances.

But in the midst of all the mystery and pain we are reminded in Christ Jesus that death is not the end of the story.

Jesus Christ ‘took on flesh’ and died himself, precisely so through faith in him, we might also rise to a life where there is ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

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