In our garden at the manse, we have a rather lovely magnolia tree. This year we had a particularly fine display of pink and white cups, and although the wind had blown some of them onto the lawn, most were still bright and beautiful at the start of the month. But then came a succession of night frosts, and overnight the blossom turned brown and shrivelled up, so that now the tree looks sad and old, where so recently it had been full of vibrant young life. Of course, that is not the end of its story, as the magnolia already carries within it the hope of another flowering next year, and it might even throw out a few blossoms at other times throughout the coming months. It responds to the seasons so that although it is not immune to the harsh realities of a British spring, the frost does not signal the end of its life, and its God-given built in resilience will carry it through to the good days again.
What a metaphor for how we so quickly turn from hope to despair, caught up in the blight of very harsh circumstances just when life appears to be blossoming. We were struck recently by how much positive input was required by politicians, scientists, health professionals and journalists in order to stress the benefits of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since a very small number of tragic fatalities were associated with it. Although tens of millions of people have been protected from Covid because of inoculation by this drug, we are all much more inclined to be swayed by the difficulties it might cause than by the present reality of the good it has done. As one scientist said, the fact that the ill effects have been clearly identified and reported is a good sign that the appropriate systems are working, but we are still cautious, and need ongoing reassurance.
Of course, caution in dangerous circumstances is not necessarily a bad thing, and we learn from our mistakes, but it must not keep us locked away from the world, blighted and shrivelled, so that we do not recognise the hope that God gives us for better tomorrows. Similarly, lives which are scarred by grief, trauma and deep-seated hurts need time and compassion so that God can heal them and bind up their wounds, bringing in a new season to help them flourish again. We have a Saviour who knows our needs, and even in the darkest depths of despair he can and will meet us, bringing life where there was once nothing but decay and pain.
In our recent Sunday services, we have been looking again at how Jesus broke through the locked doors which his disciples were using to keep danger at bay. He needed to prevent them from shrivelling up, and their mission dying before it had even begun. We have remembered that we too are often in danger of becoming locked away by the effects of past experiences, and by fear of what tomorrow may bring. But we are also assured that through the saving power of our risen Lord, spring can be restored in our hearts and lives, and our futures can bloom as Jesus builds and cultivates our resilience and secures our hope for better days ahead.
So let us continue to declare the central truth of the Christian faith… He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline