Good morning. My name is Jane Window. I’m Canon Pastor here at St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s my privilege and pleasure to bring you this week’s Reflection. First, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of our land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and to pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging as we continue to pray for the work of reconciliation.
Let us now pause and pray
You alone, O God, are inexhaustible and ever offer me something new to know, something new to love. And so, on for eternity. I shall ever be a little child beginning to be taught the lessons of your infinite divine nature. Amen.
(Cardinal John Henry Newman 1801-90)
Bible Reading: 1 Peter 1.3-7.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
As we enter a new season marked by the beginning of daylight saving, we cannot help but notice we are surrounded by the ‘new’. Many places closer to the equator are hardly marked by seasonal changes except, perhaps, for the months when more or less rain, or cyclones or monsoons are most likely. Temperatures remain almost constant, and times of sunrise and sunset may vary by as little as half an hour.
Being new to Melbourne (a few years ago now), I am still impressed by the change of season, and continue to delight in the new leaves on bare trees, the beauty of such a variety of flowering annuals, and, also, new life as birds nest and nurture their offspring. I can’t help but repeat the line from the song made famous by Louis Armstrong: “It’s a wonderful world.” (Try re-writing the song with your personal appreciations.)
Out of all these gifts, the words of the old hymn spring to mind “New every morning is the love our wakening and uprising prove; through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life and power and thought.”
A new day in this new season, surrounded by our tangible reminders of new life, won’t automatically bring us to the new birth of which Peter speaks in our Bible passage. Many of us are feeling that our lives have become routine and restricted during this unanticipated long lockdown. Freshness is something we all crave. But newness and freshness in God are right here when we look in his direction.
Imagine, for a moment, as we reflect on all the Spring newness surrounding us, what the ultimate renewal that first Easter morning might have been like. When the resurrected Jesus was recognised by Mary in the garden, how was the world of believers instantly turned upside down? How different would the story have been if Mary had allowed herself the luxury of indulging her grief and sharing it with others at home, instead of following the path to the empty tomb?
Through our association as believing children of God, we can enter again and again into the wonder and newness of the Easter moment, recognising that here, our own lives are renewed. This is why we set aside Sundays for worship and together encourage each other to rejoice in God’s grace-gift of salvation, as we see and understand how God is acting spiritually in our lives – giving us a new birth, a new hope, a new inheritance – life in him.
In our Cathedral worship, we are at the beginning of our Creation-tide series. We have a new focus to our faith – a focus on our responsibility to care not only spiritually, but also practically, for the created world, taking stock of its condition and assessing what we will leave as an inheritance for the next generation. So our delight in the seasonal renewal of our surroundings has an added dimension, as we each seek to use less energy, and explore cost-effective ways of living more sustainably. Our new life through Christ is imperishable, but this earthly life is not. We have a clear opportunity to focus on newness, because we now know how quickly our earthly lives can change under the effects of a pandemic. This certainly counts as one of the ‘various trials’ which Peter acknowledges in our reading today. However, by seeking God’s guidance, we will know the right direction, and in him, we will re-generate love for each other and for our world.
As we see the signs of renewal in the natural world all around us this Springtime, why are we so slow to ‘count our blessings’ (as the old song says) and be encouraged that there is hope for us and for our world if we act thoughtfully and avoid despair? Why do we see all the changes in nature yet fail so often to connect this with our eyes of understanding? It is something like the poet, Gerard Manly Hopkins describes in his poem God’s Grandeur as “the dearest freshness deep down things” to which Peter encourages us to respond by giving glory to God.
We, as Christ’s disciples, followers of Jesus, need to look down, to look out, and to look up. We look down as we walk, carefully placing our feet to be certain we are following in Christ’s footsteps, so our own won’t cause damage along a new pathway. We look out to see, understand and appreciate God’s wonders which surround us, and we look up ‘in praise and glory and honour’ as we catch our own moment of recognising Christ in his new, resurrected life.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.