I am writing with the sun streaming through the blinds, and buds beginning to burst in the garden, promising leaf and blossom – and hopefully, fruit too! Spring is a lovely time of year, fitting well the Easter theme of new life which we reflect on through the season, and continue with Pentecost. That rather forgotten third festival of the Christian year falls this year on 24th May (and traditionally heralds the first gooseberries!).
As April showers come and go, and the days lengthen in May to provide more warmth, we wonder if the promise will be realised. Will it be a good summer? At this stage, I have no idea. Much the same is true of the promise of Easter, and of changes in Church. We will take time to reflect on the promise of Easter, and try to be practical as we ask what difference it makes to our lives, caught up in other things. There is great promise, but will it come to fruition? Will we change, and will others catch the vision?
That is always the job. Take the possibilities, the theory, and translate it into reality. Take the story of the crucified and risen Christ, and let it transform us, shape our lives, and renew the community where we live and worship. It is so much easier to carry on the old ways, even when we know why they don’t work, rather than take a risk, do something new, and be different.
The coming of Ministry Areas, and changes in the way the Diocese works, has the same opportunities. We can use the gifts of more people, learn new ways of mission, explore how best to live as Christians in the world of today – or carry on in the ways of the past and complain that nobody wants to join us (as our juniors and apprentices, of course!). Jesus gathered a mixed band of disciples, and latecomers like Paul were certainly not “junior”. Who will hear the story for the first time this year and respond? What new growth will there be in those who have heard it before, but now see more clearly? Easter is a time of promise, looking forward.
Last summer, I saw an advertisement and signed up for a Camera Class. I used to take 35mm slides, and in the last couple of years have graduated to digital SLR use. The classes were popular, I missed the September one, and had the last place for the January term.
I must say that I have enjoyed it. On Thursday mornings (my day off) I take the bus into town, and spend two hours looking at pictures other members of the class have taken, and learning about “Creative Camera Control”. Not many of the subjects we have been covered have been totally new to me, but often the detail, and the possible use, have opened new possibilities. Taking it a week at a time has allowed time to absorb the information, and to go and try the techniques. More than that, there is some chance that I will remember which of the buttons and menu items controls what, and find them again when I want them!
I doubt if photography will take over my life. One or two of my shots have appeared on the diocesan newsletter or the website, but what I value more is the “eye training”. It is not that you go everywhere looking for pictures, but become more aware of light, shapes and textures. I now notice clouds, landscape and perspective. Hopefully that is good for my attention, as well as my appreciation.
Of course, that is really what Easter is all about! No, not taking photographs, but perhaps going to classes. In the Easter season we join with the first disciples as they try to make sense of the new world after Jesus’ resurrection. Everything is the same – but no, everything has changed. What we need to do, with them week by week, is to look at the new techniques of living, the possibilities of life in the Light, and to try them out. Being with a group, there is a chance to discuss how it went, what worked, what didn’t, and what we just didn’t understand or couldn’t get to work.
As time goes on, we should be able to see better. Issues of balance and control, of how things fit together harmoniously in God’s world, go from being a technical challenge to coming more naturally. Christian living has a technical side, best when well practised!
Andrew Knight ‘12
Christ is Risen – Allelluia!
Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus after his death by crucifixion. The strange stories of his appearances convince his disciples, and us, that he is not dead and gone, but died and risen. That’s great, and for a while we enjoy the reminder of a wider perspective on life (as well as a greater responsibility to use it as those who will give account).
If we are not careful, that’s about as far as it goes. There is of course much more that we need to explore and apply. The first thing we notice among the disciples is the sorting out of relationships. Peter is forgiven his three time denial of Jesus, Thomas struggles with his doubts and moves on to a higher level of faith, several of them think of going back to fishing – but get re-directed.
Then we start to recognise that Jesus’ life fulfilled its purpose (remember the shout from the Cross – less “It is finished” than “Done it!” or “Success!”)? Lent has asked us to consider Jesus’ commitment and the cost of our salvation, and to re-examine our own position. Easter is about Jesus’ Resurrection, and the ways it brings us to life. Are we alive – to God, other people, opportunities for Christ and service? Are we alert to spiritual opportunities and dangers, as well as road traffic and the social diary? Is time passed, or used?
Easter focuses on new life, and asks us to live. This is not the selfish illusion of me first in an eternal party, but the Christ-centred life of love and service. We are to receive the gifts and grace of God with thanks, and actively put them to the intended use. A new start – perhaps in more than one direction, working with other people (not optional!), purpose in all we do. That should keep us busy for more than seven weeks!
Andrew Knight ‘10
I am writing a letter for Easter while the first shoots are just appearing, the damson tree showing white, and the gooseberry green leaves. In Church, there has been a lot of activity – the decision to advertise for a Parish Family Worker, a curate coming in the summer, and a series of Family events planned.
Of course there is no point to any of this without the reality of new life. The first signs of Spring must lead on to blossom and full foliage, then fruit. (Will we have gooseberries by Whitsun?). In Church also the point is not the plan or programme, but the reality of new Christian life being discovered and lived by people of all ages.
What will that look like? Well, we have some pointers from the past, from times when the Church involved all sorts of different people, and drew them together in activities clearly related to their faith. There are plenty of pictures in the New Testament as well – the family, the body of Christ, with many different parts and functions, the people of God. There are too many to list here, but we need to go back to them from time to time and draw on what they have to teach us.
Pointers from the past do not amount to a full description. We know, for example, that if the New Testament talks about church as family, there have been enormous changes in family life and structure over time. Like it or not, society and culture have changed, and Christians have to adapt, without agreeing with everything or rejecting all.
Where are we going? To heaven, and the first signs of eternal life are showing now. We don’t know exactly what we shall experience on the journey; we can’t say what the big issues will be in three or five years time, or even in what direction our life and worship will be moving. Spring doesn’t mean there wasn’t a harvest last year, only that it is time to look forward to the next. We are encouraged by the signs of another Spring of the Spirit, and do all we can to help the progress to Harvest.
Andrew Knight ‘09